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Dickinson School Trustees award innovative educators

Date: 12/22/2008

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

SOUTHWICK Last week, the Dickinson School Trustees awarded two Southwick-Tolland Regional High School (STRHS) teachers with grants that will provide new equipment and innovation programming outside of the district's budget.

AnnMarie Briggs, an Adaptive Physical Education teacher, and Ann Murphy, an English teacher, each received over $700 from the trust that will be used during this academic year. Briggs received funding for Adaptive Physical Education equipment for students with special needs. Murphy's allocation will pay for appearances by local author Suzanne Strempek Shea and a performance of "The Belle of Amherst" next spring.

"Normally we would not have funding in the regular budget in order to produce programs such as this that enrich the education of students," Murphy said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "I'm extremely grateful to the [trustees] for their support for our school . and allowing me to go beyond the tradition curriculum and enhance the learning experience for my students. Anytime students can get excited about literature is an amazing opportunity."

She explained that the grant will fund a program called "Local Authors: Past and Present," which focuses on the works of Shea and Emily Dickinson. Murphy said her students will read and analyze their works prior to meeting Shea on April 9 and seeing "The Belle of Amherst" on May 12. This one-woman play, performed by Ashley Shea, tells the tale of Dickinson's life from her own perspective.

"We don't have a huge amount of money but we're able to help those teachers who make a special effort for students," Ken Haar, Dickinson School Trustee, said, adding that this is the fourth round of grant recipients.

He explained that Southwick resident Richard Dickinson established the trust in the early 1800s with a principle of $15,000. Haar said the purpose of the trust is to finance education for all those within the STRSD. He added that the trustees are only able to spend the interest earned on the principle in order to finance the grants.

"It was like [receiving everything on] a Christmas wish list," Briggs said of the new Adaptive Physical Education equipment funded by the grant.

She explained that she was able to purchase items that would cover a "wide variety of needs for a wide variety of students" including juggling scarves, exercise balls, fitness equipment and modified team activity equipment.

Haar said innovative new programs coupled with motivated educators allow students the opportunity to "expand their horizons" and think outside of traditional classroom education.

Donations to the trust can be mailed to Dickinson School Trust, Southwick Town Hall, 454 College Highway, Southwick, MA 01077. Checks must be made payable to Dickinson School Trust.