BELTON — Cow bells rang through the hallways.
Santa Claus was not trotting around Belton Independent School District schools, as some students at the campuses suggested.
Instead, members of the Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation surprised principals and teachers at Southwest Elementary, Chisholm Trail Elementary and Miller Heights Elementary with grants to bolster their literacy efforts. Teachers applied for the grants earlier this fall.
“The funding from the state is limited, as everyone knows. It’s important because we can bring innovation into the classroom — things that we don’t have any other funding for can be brought into the classroom,” Allyn Testroet, the BEEF board of directors president, said.
Each of the schools received a $5,000 grant.
Paula Vasek, an instructional coach at Southwest Elementary, received a $6,000 grant.
“This will go to every student here at Southwest,” Vasek said, her voice quivering with excitement as she grabbed the oversized check. “We are now going to order … brand new books for these kids so they don’t have to take someone’s … hand me down.”
That was not the sole grant BEEF gave to Southwest Elementary, 611 Saunders St. The group gave a smaller $538 grant to resource aide Bobby Furnace.
“It is impressive with what we’re going to be able to do for our kids, and for our kids who are just the sweetest and … deserve to have the best opportunity just like any other kids,” said Dawn Schiller, the interim Southwest Elementary principal and Belton ISD’s math and science director. “I just love the opportunity for the kids to have books in their hands.”
When Daren Ramesar, a physical education teacher at Miller Heights Elementary — 1110 Fairway Drive — heard bells jingling outside of the gym, he thought it was just something related to Santa. Then another teacher leaned in to tell the first-year teacher he was getting a BEEF grant, he said.
“When the opportunity presented itself about the BEEF grant, I thought I might as well take advantage of it,” the retired Army Black Hawk pilot said of the $1,578.44 grant, adding he plans to purchase new gym equipment with it. “The kids are going to be super excited. They deserve it.”
Miller Heights Elementary Principal Hope Orsag said the $5,000 grant the school received was amazing.
“We’re really excited about the literacy grant because we are really in need of some classroom libraries for some of our grade levels, and it will give students an opportunity to have access to lots of different types of reading material,” Orsag said.
Chisholm Trail Elementary Principal Elizabeth McMurtry was caught off guard by the $5,000 grant. She said it’s a blessing that gives more opportunities to her students.
“We get more books in their hands, so they’re building those reading skills and closing gaps,” McMurtry said. “We’re helping them excel from where they already are.”
Brittney Uselton — a second grade reading, writing and social studies teacher at Chisholm Trail Elementary, 1082 S. Wheat Road — got a $2,000 check. She focuses on independent reading in her classroom.
“It’s an opportunity for them to take ownership of their reading and have more choices in their reading,” she said. “It is to build a foundation for them to be a lifelong reader, so it’s just setting the foundation now so it continues for the rest of their lives.”
Additional BEEF grants and scholarships will be awarded soon.