BPEF awarded a $7,000 grant last year to buy 20 high-quality microscopes for King Middle School. Photo: Berkeley Public Education Foundation

More than 400 Berkeley public school teachers have received nearly $200,000 in grants from the Berkeley Public Education Foundation for 2012-13, the organization announced on Thursday Dec 6. The foundation will celebrate teachers Friday afternoon at a special reception at Northbrae Community Church.

The total number of grants increased this year by 15% to 285. Molly Fraker, director of the nonprofit organization, said in a written statement that it was the highest number of grants the group has ever awarded. (See a full list of the grants here.)

The grants, which are a central program of the education foundation, support educator-initiated projects at every grade, in every school, she said. Teachers can apply either individually or in teams.

Every student participate in field trips to sites such as the SF Maritime Museum’s historic Balclutha, thanks to BPEF grants. Photo: BPEF

The largest grant, of $6,580, went toward transportation to send every fifth-grader in the Berkeley Unified School District to a workshop at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory over the course of the school year.

Among the smallest was $120 for a set of polyhedron dice for math activities in a third grade classroom.

The money the foundation raises each year is used for grants for academic projects and programs; a volunteer program “that infuses over $1 million in donated time into the district”; and support for programs developed with staff, or offered within the schools by partner non-profits.

The foundation’s School Volunteers program, which began in 1991, “brings donated time, talents and skills of over 2,000 community members into all Berkeley schools.” (Learn more about how to volunteer.)

The foundation also funds partnerships with groups such as the Berkeley Repertory Theater ($7,000), which ran 10-week workshops at all 11 elementary schools over the past two years and is now working in the middle schools, and the Berkeley Symphony ($15,000), whose “Music in the Schools” program serves nearly 4,000 students in all eleven elementary schools with a year-long program of instruction and performance.

There’s also Community Resources for Science ($9,000), which helps K-8 teachers in their science efforts by providing information and lessons, scientist volunteers and support with extracurricular activities, and the WriterCoach Connection ($9,000), whose 250 volunteers coach middle and high school student writers.

Over the summer, the foundation launched a new Summer Fellowships for Teachers program and sent three educators out of the area, one as far as Africa, to travel and study.

In addition to classroom grants, BPEF’s new Summer Fellowship for Teachers program gives educators a chance to deepen their professional growth outside the boundaries of their own school or region. Thousand Oaks teacher Bill Briggs went to Africa. Photo: BPEF

The foundation was launched in 1983, in the wake of Proposition 13 property tax restructuring, when a group of Berkeley parents and community leaders created the organization “to raise awareness and funds on behalf of the city’s public school teachers and students.”

This group began building an annual source of funding to help teachers “enrich their classrooms and expand the horizons of their teaching.”

The foundation has become Berkeley’s single largest source of private outside funding available to district schools, according to the group.

The foundation notes that highlights of its support over the years included early seed funding for the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, which resulted in last year’s $44,000 grant for thousands of books; an effort in the 1990s to raise $1 million to build a Family Resource Center at Rosa Parks School during its reconstruction following the Loma Prieta earthquake; and a campaign to raise over $300,000 to keep music teachers and instruction running in district schools.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...