Teacher Direct Grants 2022-2023

The Teacher Direct Grant application process is open for the 2022-2023 school year.

Exciting news for this year. The SPEF board has voted to DOUBLE the funding for Teacher Grants this year to $100,000!

The South Pasadena Educational Foundation offers the Teacher Direct Grant Program to encourage the enhancement and enrichment of educational activities in order to develop and cultivate student achievement. These grants are offered to help fund activities that are innovative and have a far-reaching effect. The Teacher Direct Grant Program is in place to further SPEF’s mission to support educational excellence in the public schools of South Pasadena through the operation of enrichment programs.

Teacher Direct Grants

The SPEF board brought back its direct grants program in 2012 as a way to promote teacher- and staff-driven innovation in the classroom. Teachers, counselors, and staff members can receive up to $2,500 per individual or $6,000 for a joint application across a grade level,  to try out new curriculum, equipment, or techniques.

The link to the application is here.

SPUSD Principals Share Their Appreciation for SPEF

The mission of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation is to support educational excellence in the public schools of South Pasadena. We do so by raising funds to supplement the school district’s budget and by operating enrichment programs for local students.

These funds directly impact all of our SPUSD students at all five schools. Here our SPUSD principals share their appreciation for SPEF and what SPEF means to them.

$50,000 Awarded to Teachers in SPUSD

Every year SPEF offers the Teacher Direct Grant Program to encourage the enhancement and enrichment of educational activities in order to develop and cultivate student achievement.

These grants are offered to help fund activities that are innovative and have a far-reaching effect. The Teacher Direct Grant Program is in place to further SPEF’s mission to support educational excellence in the public schools of South Pasadena through the operation of enrichment programs.

This year SPEF awarded $50.000 to teachers throughout all five schools.

If you would like more information about the Teacher Direct Grant program or a specific grant listed below, you can email:

Barbra McLendon, TDG Chair at bmclendon@spef4kids.org.

Stacey Petersen, Executive Director at spetersen@spef4kids.org.

If you would like to read more about SPEF’s impact click here.

Major Grants Awards 2019

South Pasadena’s public schools will be able to introduce or expand three vital academic and behavioral programs, thanks to $100,000 in grants from the South Pasadena Educational Foundation.

SPEF’s Major Grants committee informed school administrators this week that it had agreed to fund requests to expand the Project Lead the Way/Engineering Pathway and the elementary school Mindfulness program, and to launch anti-bias workshops at South Pasadena High School. “SPUSD greatly values our partnership with SPEF, including its generous funding of annual major grants, which enable us to be visionaries who are able to take action through ambitious, student-focused, educational programs,” said Superintendent Geoff Yantz. “During the current cycle of funding, major grants will be supporting social-emotional programs and lessons, specialized anti-bias training for teachers and students, and curricular advancements in highly sought after subjects such as science and engineering.”

Here are more details about each of the grants.

PLTW Engineering puts students into the role of engineers, adopting a problem-solving mindset and translating their ideas into reality. Its courses pose real-world challenges for students, helping them to work collaboratively and think creatively.

SPEF has been a key backer of the PLTW curriculum, helping to establish a series of popular STEM/engineering courses at the middle school. That effort will soon bear fruit as well in the high school; it plans to begin offering its first PLTW engineering course, which SPEF also funded, in the 2019-20 school year, coinciding with the opening of the new engineering lab. 

The new $42,460 grant  from SPEF will fully fund a second course in high school, titled “Principles of Engineering.” Starting in 2020-21, the course will lead students through a broad range of engineering topics, including structural strength and automation, then have them apply it to the challenge of designing a self-powered car.

The Mindfulness program grows out of a seed SPEF planted at Marengo Elementary School a few years ago. Teachers there had obtained a direct grant from SPEF to fund an eight-week mindfulness initiative, which had a special instructor come in twice a week to lead 15- to 20-minute sessions on such mindfulness activities as focusing on one’s breathing, on sounds and on thoughts. The point was to give students tools that help them reduce anxiety, improve focus and heighten empathy by helping them to better identify, talk about and cope with their emotions.

The effort was so well received and effective, the district sought to expand it. And now with a $45,540 grant from SPEF, the district expects to bring the mindfulness curriculum right away to 45 classrooms across all elementary schools, and to 54 classrooms in 2019-20. It’s a timely effort, considering the surge in children being diagnosed with anxiety. 

The third grant targets concerns about how the heightened political divisions, declining civility and other fault lines in our society are affecting students. The district sought SPEF’s help to bring a training program to teachers and students that could help improve their ability to listen and respond to viewpoints that conflict with their own.

Using a $12,000 grant from SPEF, South Pasadena High School plans to send up to 100 staff members and up to 50 students to full-day anti-bias workshops run by the Anti-Defamation League. The goal is to train students to use their leadership skills and influence over their peers to encourage respect and civility in their schools and their community. Students will also be trained to lead workshops and discussions with their peers about issues that are affecting their lives, and to promote a culture that values the differences among us.

Major Grants 2018-2019 Applications

PLTW Science Curriculum K-5

The SPEF board is now accepting applications for major grants, which fund ambitious new course materials, technology and upgrades that the district wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Unlike the teacher direct grant proposals, pitches for major grants will come from district leaders and school principals, who are currently considering what programs they would like to fund with this money.


In previous years, the major grants program has funded the “Train Your Brain” behavioral counseling program in the middle and high schools, a new Project Lead the Way science curriculum in the elementary school, high-tech robotic farm equipment for the middle school and a new sound board to dramatically improve the sound system in the high school auditorium, as well as two full classrooms of computers for the Foreign Language Department to use as listening labs at SPHS.  Thanks to every SPEF supporter for funding this important program.

SPEF Major Grants Awards: 2017-2018

In 2017-18, SPEF was proud to announce the awarding of over $62,000 in major-grants funding to two programs at South Pasadena High School. The funded projects are:

Project Lead The Way STEM/Engineering:

Schools across California have been tasked with implementing the California Next Generation Science Standards (CA NGSS) over the course of the next few years. The goal of the CA NGSS is to prepare California students to be future citizens and future scientists. Achieving this vision for all California students requires that they build towards science mastery through repeated opportunities for meaningful, engaging, and successful learning experiences. These standards also have a heavy emphasis on engineering practices and engineering design.

Students at the middle school currently participate in the Project Lead the Way STEM/Engineering Pathway courses. PLTW Engineering empowers students to step into the role of an engineer, adopt a problem-solving mindset, and make the leap from dreamers to doers. The program’s courses engage students in compelling, real-world challenges that help them become better collaborators and thinkers. Students take from the courses in-demand knowledge and skills they will use in high school and for the rest of their lives, on any career path they take. There is a high level of interest in these courses.

To capitalize on the PLTW STEM/Engineering middle school interest level and to meet the NGSS engineering practices, the SPEF Major Grant’s Committee awarded  $30,903 to build an engineering pathway at South Pasadena  High School. This pathway will include two PLTW Engineering courses described below:

Introduction to Engineering Design

Students at a high school use Design Thinking to encourage unique solutions to design problems.

Students dig deep into the engineering design process, applying math, science and engineering standards to such hands-on projects as designing a new toy or improving an existing product.


Principles of Engineering

Students explore a broad range of engineering topics, including mechanisms, the strength of structure and materials, and automation, and then they apply what they’ve learned to take on challenges such as designing a self-powered car.

World Language  Computers on Wheels: 

Mrs. Kanner’s French 4H students using the COW computers to create a review presentation for the end of the semester.

The SPHS World Language Department provides classes in Spanish, Mandarin, and French to over 65% of students enrolled at the high school. These classes can fulfill graduation requirements and are necessary to meet the UC A-G requirement.

As with English Language Arts, students enrolled in SPHS World Languages require experiences in reading, writing, speaking and listening as part of their curriculum.  While World Language teachers design their courses to provide all aspects of language use and acquisition, regular access to computers helps to offer additional valuable experiences.

Students specifically benefit from being able to practice listening to and speaking a language with a native accent using online programs with speech recognition.  Such programs enhance language acquisition and are rapidly becoming a standard component of World Language textbooks and curriculum. Routine classroom use of such programs also prepares students for AP language testing, which involves the use of both computers and headsets.

To meet this critical need, the SPEF Major Grant’s Committee awarded $31, 281 for two Computers-on-Wheels, with 70 MacBook Air computers and headsets, for shared use in all nine SPHS  World Language classrooms.