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Brownwood Education Foundation’s 3rd Annual Gala a Success for Teachers and Students

By Sara Musgrove


Striving to fund innovative teaching proves to be no easy task, but the Brownwood Education Foundation does so with glittering panache and a jazzy soundtrack. Saturday, October 20th, 2018, over four hundred community members converged upon the Brownwood Regional Airport to dine, entertain, and ultimately raise money for the benefit of Brownwood students and teachers during the annual Education Foundation Gala. “There is no more noble profession than that of teacher and educator,” said Bert V. Massey, II, recipient of the 2018 BISD Alumni of the Year Award. As a previous mayor of Brownwood, Massey has seen his share of teachers and their students built up by the community schools, and he reminded community members of the pivotal importance of their investments within local classrooms. This year’s “Louisiana Saturday Night” theme made the event a refined and purposeful celebration of progress.


The gala event recognized Massey for his efforts and also awarded the 2018 Lion Legacy Award to Betty Martin and the late Dr. Don Martin. The two served a combined 77 years for BISD.  Don retired in 2001 after working his way from math teacher to superintendent, while Betty moved from teaching music to becoming a certified counselor. “It was so much fun,” said Martin, noting that she got to know many kids, parents and teachers over the years. “I…finished out my career as a counselor at Brownwood High School. I’ve loved every minute of it at every age group.”


Following these presentations, a silent and live auction took place as a major event in the evening’s entertainment. Funds raised through the auctions will benefit the teachers and students of Brownwood ISD. Thousands of dollars will surge into classrooms, cultivating a rich atmosphere, and increasing opportunities for teachers to employ cutting-edge techniques. To inspire generous contributions, many donations were provided to the Education Foundation by local community members who understand the importance of a thriving education. A Texas A&M football game package, world golf championship, bottles of wine from local wineries, dinner parties, hundreds of pounds of beef, and jewelry were among the live auction items. The obvious favorite donation was a miniature blue healer puppy, who ended up being purchased for $5,000.


The puppy was not only adorable, but his owner is a freshman at Brownwood High School, who breeds and sells these dogs as a way to save money for his upcoming college tuition. Caden Mendez has been breeding miniature blue heeler dogs since 2015. Caden provides quality care for the dogs and has even learned how to administer appropriate vaccines to keep them healthy. A different puppy was already slated to be sold at the auction but was pulled at the last minute due to an unforeseen health condition that wouldn’t clear up in time. Word of mouth has been the primary selling method for Caden, and when the owners of Ag Mart wanted to purchase a puppy as a replacement for the auction, Mendez instead offered the puppy as a donation. “The theater department has made a big impact on Caden’s life,” his mother Elizabeth said, detailing his experience with theater at BHS led by Director, Shannon Lee and Assistant Director Brittany Martin. “He knows they always need money. There are kids who enjoy it and who aren’t involved in sports. Theater offers different opportunities for them. Ms. Martin and Ms. Lee have made a positive impact on him and they might not know it. He wanted to give back in an act of kindness.”  In the end, however, Foundation members chose to support Caden’s college tuition fund by paying him for the puppy.


Giving back is exactly what the Brownwood Education Foundation aims to do with all funds raised during the annual gala. “The Foundation will raise close to $100,000 on this event through sponsorships, purchase of auction items and donations,” said Eric Evans, the Brownwood Education Foundation Board Vice President. “Funds will be used in Educational Grants in specific classrooms working with students. A portion of the funds also go to Excellence in Teaching awards at the end of the school year as well as help pay for a portion of our Executive Director's salary and their investment of time developing potential donors, alumni and working alongside BISD administrative personnel to help make the most impact out of the funds received.”


Making the most impact is the crucial role of this gala, and many teachers and classrooms throughout Brownwood ISD have already been influenced for the better from past years. One example is Robert Howington, the Brownwood Middle School woodshop teacher, who is in his fifth year with BISD. He received a grant in the 2017 school year for a SawStop table saw. “It’s the safest table saw,” Howington said. “Ten people a day, just in the United States, lose a finger on a table saw. It's an inherently dangerous tool. Even if you do everything right, even if you follow all the safety precautions, you can still have an accident. The machine can malfunction, something could happen with the board, lots of things can happen even when you're being safe… Anything and everything we can do to minimize the risk, we're going to do.” Howington creates as safe an environment as possible for his students, from beginners to advanced students. All must earn a 100% on the safety test. “What did you have to get on your safety test before you could even go into the shop?" he asked his students. "One hundred," every single student volunteered. “What, cause ninety isn't good enough?” Howington replied, holding up nine fingers toward them.


Another example of a teacher served is Teresa Brandstetter, a coach and math teacher at Brownwood Middle School. She received a grant titled, “Lighting Makes All The Difference,” for colored bulb covers. The covers encase the overhead fluorescent lightbulbs in her classroom, offering a soft purple and blue light. “It takes out the huge glare and softens the hum of the bulb,” Brandstetter said. “It decreases hyperactivity in kids with ADHD. It helps with focus; it’s an overall good effect.” While certified to teach Special Ed, Brandstetter said colored bulbs and lamps have been a trend in special needs classrooms for quite some time, and the calming effect on the classroom can be felt the moment that light switch flips on.


Woodland Heights Elementary teacher Elizabeth Clevenger has been awarded a grant for the 2018 school year, titled, “Read All About It.” Students in her class will receive their own monthly magazine which includes poetry, non-fiction, and fiction in each edition. She has used this subscription in past classrooms and students loved the personal, relevant, and applicable tool. The magazines discuss not only stories but how to write them, elements which will support the current classroom studies. “Each ‘Storyworks Jr.’ magazine from Scholastic also has video that goes along with select stories,” Clevenger said. “We read about the Hindenburg zeppelin one year in a fascinating historical fiction piece, and then watched real video of the blimp… The texts and questions are designed to reinforce the different reading skills we use, for example, fact and opinion, main idea and supporting details, problem/solution, to name a few.” Clevenger plans on submitting another request for the 2019 school year as well. “It is very easy to do. It just takes a little time to fill out the application, but it is worth it. Writing a grant like this can sound daunting, but it’s not. Another option is writing a grant with another teacher friend. You can get creative and work together as a team. The sky is the limit!”


While classrooms continue to evolve, the Brownwood Education Foundation actively works to support and invest in the lives of our future leaders. “The Foundation has the ability to help bridge this gap and make positive impacts in the lives of our students and teachers that are measurable and life-changing,” Evans said of the Foundation efforts. From alternative seating, new supplies, innovative learning kits, and STEM initiatives, Brownwood’s teachers can use the Education Foundation’s funding to create rigorous and superior learning environments. The sky truly is the limit. Ninety percent isn’t good enough, shown by the generous Brownwood community working in tandem with the Foundation to create an unrivaled and championed learning environment.