Most people probably wouldn’t associate a six-foot-tall beaver with Valentine’s Day, but for local teachers and administrators, it was a happy sight.
On Wednesday, Forsyth County Schools and Beaver Toyota, along with mascot Bucky the Beaver, visited 13 local schools with award grants totaling $100,000. The dealership donated the funds, and schools went through a request process before winners were chosen.
“We are dedicated to education,” said Matt Calavan, owner at Beaver Toyota. “Our family — my sister, Linda Beaver, and I — is loaded with teachers in our sisters and brothers and others. It’s always something that has been near to our hearts, so when we were able to give back, this is what we decided to do.”
Schools selected as grant winners were:
Matt Elementary, North Forsyth High, Cumming Elementary, Gateway Academy, Whitlow Elementary, West Forsyth High, Vickery Creek Middle, Midway Elementary, Brookwood Elementary, Johns Creek Elementary, South Forsyth High and DeSana Middle, which also accepted the grant for Denmark High School.
At each stop, a group of representatives from the school system and Beaver would come to the school to surprise administrators and classes. Each school was left with a large, heart-shaped Valentine designating the school as a grant winner.
Thirty-one schools applied for the grants.
“It was overwhelming. We got the email that they were going to be visiting today and were like, “OK, 31 schools, 13 winners. Could it be us?’” said Midway Elementary School Principal Jan Munroe. “When we saw Bucky approaching the building, oh, my heart was up in my throat. It’s very exciting.”
At elementary schools that were awarded grants, the funds will go toward STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — programs. For middle and high schools, the funds will be used for social and emotional learning initiatives.
“We’ve created a social-emotional curriculum of sorts that we’re implementing next year,” said Molly Bradley, a vice principal at West Forsyth High School. “A lot of it is student-led. There are also a lot of leadership pieces, so it is focused not only West but also the West community.”
At Midway, the school will use the funds for new virtual reality technology to be used in classrooms.
“We’re hoping this is the start of the virtual reality immersion for them,” said teacher Jennifer Lundstrum. “There are educational programs we can upload. So, they’re inside the heart looking around, they’re in the Grand Canyon, they’re in the center of the earth. There are [programs] that we found … [where] they are in the store and they’re having to write a multiplication problem based on how many soup cans they see.”
Calavan said he hopes to see the partnership with local schools continue.
“What I love is the money goes directly to the students and the teachers, where it can really make a difference,” he said. “We’re excited to see how it all works out.”
Vickery Creek Middle School Principal Scott Feldkamp said he was grateful for the dealership’s commitment to local schools.
“I’m so excited that we have a great partnership with Beaver Toyota, who supports our school system and the events and activities at all our schools,” he said. “This is going to go a long way to really helping to support our efforts of developing a good leadership program in Vickery Middle School.”