During her 40-year career as a teacher in the Lawrence Township Public Schools, Pat Devlin received several grants for classroom projects from the Lawrence Township Education Foundation.
Now Devlin, who was named to the foundation’s Board of Trustees earlier this month, will be able to return the favor by reviewing and approving grants for the current crop of teachers and students.
“I want to give back what I received,” said Devlin, who retired from the school district in 2017. The lifelong Lawrence resident taught at the Ben Franklin Elementary School and the Lawrence Intermediate School.
Since its inception in 1992, the nonprofit Lawrence Township Education Foundation has awarded more than $3.5 million in grants to teachers, funding more than 780 grants.
The grants have paid for a reading nook for first-graders at the Slackwood Elementary School and iPads for special education and resource room students at the Lawrence Intermediate School, as well as for artists in residence for the school district.
Devlin said she is familiar with the grant-writing process and knows what to look for in a teacher’s application. And because she taught in several grades, she knows whether a proposed project is age-appropriate, she said.
Devlin said she can encourage teachers to apply for grants for classroom projects, even if the teacher has never written a grant. She can walk the teacher through the process and offer encouragement to apply for another grant if the first application is not approved.
The foundation provides a personal touch to the process, and it is that personal touch that appeals to her, she said. Sometimes, a grant application is impersonal, but not at the foundation, she said.
“I always worked with other teachers, as a co-teacher,” she said. “Working through the foundation, I can continue doing what I did, brainstorming and lending support” to a teacher/grant applicant.
Devlin, who is one of two former Lawrence Township Public Schools teachers on the Board of Trustees, said she can help the other trustees as they review a grant application. Someone without an education background might not see the benefit to a grant application, she said.
One of Devlin’s own favorite classroom projects, which was funded by the foundation, involved having her fifth-graders learn how to write a book when she taught at the Lawrence Intermediate School.
The foundation supplied blank books and paid for her students’ transportation between the Lawrence Intermediate School and the Slackwood and Eldridge Park elementary schools. The students learned about the writing process and what it entails, she said. They learned how to describe a character and how to pull the story line together.
When the books were completed, the fifth-graders traveled to the two elementary schools and read their stories to second-graders, she said. They told the younger children that if they worked hard, they could write a book, too.
A couple of years later, some former students came to her and told her how easy creative writing had become for them because of that project, Devlin said.
“What they learn often carries over,” Devlin said.