Delivering for Fauquier County youth and teachers

By Posted on Apr 16 2021 | By

Fauquier Excellence in Education Foundation focused on county’s future

Officially incorporated in 1987 as the Committee for Excellence in Education, the organization was originally created to support teachers in Fauquier County public schools. It provided instructors funds to take classes, seminars, and attend conferences supporting their professional growth.

In 2013, the committee’s name was changed to its current title while considerably broadening its agenda. Today, both teachers and children are reaping the benefits of the nonprofit’s expanded agenda. To date, the Foundation has awarded over $275,000 in grants to teachers, administrators, aides, and support staff.

The change was triggered by parents, the school board, and county supervisors, all who agreed new ways were needed to help fund educational programs that could directly benefit public school education.

Today, those programs include multi-sensory literacy, My first Book Club, A-R Topography Sand Box, educator grants, summer camps, new teacher dinners, and teacher of the year awards, among other initiatives.

The Foundation is headed by a ten-member board led by Executive Director Stacie Griffin.

Coming from a background in radio and television management on the West Coast, the birth of Griffin’s son, Hazen, 17 years ago dictated a move east. “My husband and I did not want to raise him in the Hollywood scene. We wanted him to learn the lessons of life in his own backyard,” said Griffin.

She was born in Maryland, and her husband always liked the region, so the move to Virginia was a good fit. Today, the family resides in The Plains. Griffin, 54, works full-time for the Library of Congress in Culpeper.

She is the only paid Foundation employee working some 25 hours a month. “Our hard-working board is the heart of the Foundation. I help coordinate their efforts,” emphasized Griffin.

Griffin’s passionate take on education best characterizes the Foundation’s programs. “I never want any child’s experience or education dependent on money or the size of their parent’s wallet. I want every child to have a great experience in life.”

She further underscores that some of the wealthiest people in the world live in the county but it also has two schools on free and reduced lunch programs.

For these reasons, the original committee felt, “We’ve been doing this for some twenty years. We need to grow our vision beyond just teacher grants,” recalls Griffin. The Foundation’s direction was expanded, with Griffin contributing her skills to help realize the new goals.

Educator Grants
An essential focus of the Foundation is helping teachers get professional development which they would otherwise have to pay for themselves. The purpose to better their skills and return to the classrooms, directly impacting student advancement.

STEM and Environmental Studies

The Foundation supports STEM and Environmental Studies. STEM is an approach to learning and development that integrates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Through STEM, students develop critical skills including problem-solving, creativity, critical analysis, teamwork, independent thinking, digital literacy, and more.

My First Book Club
The program focuses on literacy at the pre-K level. Research has shown the importance of early literacy in the long-term educational development of youth. Each child receives a free book each month to keep. Often, it is the first book the child has ever owned.

The teacher works with each child and then gathers the class together to discuss the book, just like a traditional book club. The students talk about the book’s story, sharing their thoughts and feelings, and creating peer interaction in the process. The children are also encouraged to take the books home and begin building a little library.

Special Education
The program supports life transitions for students with special needs who can attend high school through the age of 22. The effort is to create employment opportunities by teaching real-life-skills since many students will not go onto college.

Goals would include working in jobs like local grocery stores, learning how to do their laundry, and fundamentally taking care of themselves as functioning adults.

Multi-Sensory Learning
The program centers on literacy and dyslexia. It trains instructors that students learn in different ways. “We want to give our teachers the tools they need to help students with individual needs,” Griffin said.

A-R Topography Sandboxes
The curriculum explores the importance of water, watersheds, hydrology, topography, land forms, geology, the effects of weather, earth science, and more. It’s been made available through a grant from Dominion Energy and uses Augmented Reality 3-D Topography Sandbox Tables to learn.

The Foundation’s website enumerates these programs and more. Each one has a “Donate” button as part of the program description.

The public can select to support one or more of the initiatives with a simple click. “We are a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit, so donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law. We invite everyone to look at the website and find a program that speaks to them.

“Every penny received is coded and goes directly to the program selected. That’s how the public can best help our educators and students,” said Griffin.

Another traditional fundraising source is its annual golf tournament. For 21 years, the tournament has been an important source of funding for the Foundation. This year the event will be held at the Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville on June 21. The fee is $150 per person. It’s anticipated it will generate over $15,000. The money will go primarily to teacher grants. Golfers can sign up on its website.

Give Local, sponsored by the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation, is another vital source of funding.

“I am proud of the Foundation. I’m proud of our board of directors, who donate their personal time and expertise. It’s a group of volunteers who really support our public schools,” Griffin said.

For a complete description of the programs of the Fauquier Excellence in Education Foundation, visit its website at https://www.fauquiereie.org/.


Published in an April 2021 edition of the Fauquier Times

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