"Ojai Education Foundation Donates Over $46,000 to Support Public Education in the Ojai Valley!"

The classroom experience for many of the 2,000-plus students in the Ojai Unified School District (OUSD) is going to become even more enriching and fulfilling, thanks to the Ojai Education Foundation (OEF) and its donation of over $46,000 in grants to 20 public school teachers throughout the Ojai Valley.

OEF’s donation will fund innovative projects during the 2018 – 19 school year in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.), and the Arts.  OEF grants will also fund audio / visual equipment, as well as library books throughout OUSD elementary schools, junior high and high school.

Over 50% of OEF’s grant funding went to support Science and Environment projects. Natalie Hay, Physics, Geoscience and Chemistry Teacher at Nordhoff High School, received a $2,500 from OEF to fund 50 Galileoscope kits.  This specialty telescope is used to teach astronomy to students by aiding in their view of planets, stars, moons and other celestial forms otherwise unseen by the unaided eye.  The idea to seek funding for this grant came from one of Hay’s science students, Abby Runyan, a junior Honor Student at Nordhoff High School.   Runyan became interested in Astronomy as a Freshman after taking physical science and biology classes offered at Nordhoff.  Runyan was so intrigued by the topic, she enrolled in “COSMOS”, a 4 week summer school for Math and Science hosted at U.C. Davis.  And according to Runyan, that experience changed the trajectory of her life.  “I knew I wanted to study Science, and pursue something in the field of research, which has always been part of my family’s culture,” said Runyan.  “While attending the Science Summer camp, we used Galileoscopes to learn Astrophysics.  That experience not only brought me out of my shell, but it helped me see what my life would look like studying Astrophysics.  At the same time, I also realized how fortunate I was to learn science in such a unique way, and that many of my fellow students back at Nordhoff did not have this opportunity, since many of my friends do not have access to telescopes, or the ability to go to a local Observatory.  So I thought I would ‘pay it forward’ by finding a way to have other students experience Astrophysics by bringing Galieoscopes to Nordhoff.”

Runyan plans to do that by enrolling in Hay’s AP Physics course as a Senior at Nordhoff during the 2018 – 19 school year.  For her Senior Project, she will work with Hay and Hay’s Freshman Physics students to help them build and use the Galieloscopes funded by OEF.  They are also considering hosting a “Star Party” where students would return to campus during the evening, and together use the Galieoscopes to study the night sky.  Runyan also has plans to write a monthly piece in the school paper titled “What’s UP”, where she will expand on celestial happenings in the Ojai sky and beyond.

In addition to the Galieoscopes, OEF funded two grants totaling more than $13,000 submitted by Nordhoff Science Teacher Naiyma Houston, that will fund Lab equipment for the Freshman Physics class, as well as fund teacher training in the Next Generation Science Standards (or NGSS) curriculum standards required for all California Public Schools.  Houston, who teaches Biology, Physics and Medical Terminology at Nordhoff, credits OEF’s funding and support to help introduce S.T.E.M. to girls.  “I came to Nordhoff after working for years in the Biotech industry.  My passion is not only in Science, but to inspire girls in particular to find their passion to pursue something within the S.T.E.M. field.  (OEF’s funding) will help Nordhoff’s entire Science department to teach science to our kids in a new and innovative way that is not just focused on learning facts, but on learning how to apply what they learn and observe in a unique way.”

A reception honoring all of OEF’s 2018 – 19 grantees was held at the Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room in April.  Susan Leech, OEF Board Member and Grant Program Chair, was pleased that OEF was able to recognize not just the grantees that evening, but all OUSD teachers and what they achieve throughout the year.  “We are so honored to be able to support our teachers and all they do in our classrooms day in and day out for our kids in the Ojai Valley.  The breadth and depth of projects OEF is funding is a testament to the quality of our teachers and their passion to improve our kids and our community.

Andy Cantwell, OUSD Superintendent and OEF Board Member also remarked on OEF’s impact in supporting public education in Ojai.  “OEF is a key partner in helping the district deliver a robust and inspiring public education experience for our students and teachers.  We are extremely thankful to all of the members of our community who support the Foundation with both their financial and volunteer resources.”

Ojai Education Foundation
Public School Grants for 2018 - 19 School Year = $46,714

Janis Duncan, The Channel Kelp Forest Mural, Meiners Oaks E.S., $2,000
Gray Duncan, Pottery Wheel , Nordhoff H.S., $1,555

Teresa Lessing, , HD Television, Meiners Oaks E.S., $654
Aimee Mendoza, HD Theatre Display, Meiners Oaks E.S., $1,365
Bronwen-Cull Michels, Sound System, Nordhoff H.S., $2,495

Pamela Dzukola, 24 Memory Foam Lap Desks, Mira Monte E.S., $500
June Sears, Playground Equipment, Mira Monte E.S., $2,500

Cindy Israel, Anne Frank Books, Matilija J.H.S., $952
Matilija JHS, Library Books, Matilija J.H.S., $800
Catherine McKinnis, S.T.E.A.M. Books for Library, Meiners Oaks E.S., $500
Catherine McKinnis, S.T.E.A.M. Books for Library, Mira Monte E.S., $500
Denise Rimpa, Research Database for Library, Nordhoff H.S., $5,240
San Antonio, S.T.E.A.M. Books for Library, San Antonio E.S., $500
Summit School, S.T.E.A.M. Books for Library, Summit E.S., $500
Topa Topa, , S.T.E.A.M. Books for Library, Topa Topa E.S., $500

Steve Gard, Garden Club, Matilija J.H.S., $1,785
Danon Plott, Mystery Science Computer Curriculum, Meiners Oaks E.S., $499
Natalie Hay, 50 Galileoscope Kits, Nordhoff H.S., $2,500
Naiyma Houston, Lab Equipment for Freshman Physics, Nordhoff H.S., $11,218
Naiyma Houston, Teacher Training for Science Standards, Nordhoff H.S., $2,000
Becky Perry, Chemicals for Chemistry Units, Nordhoff H.S., $2,500
Lisa Porto, Biology Dissection Materials, Nordhoff H.S., $889
Anne Gard, Class set of Binoculars, San Antonio E.S., $824
Brenda Hill, S.T.E.M. Online Science / Math Labs, Topa Topa E.S., $3,938