Beaufort News

Beaufort County teachers surprised with grants for classroom projects

John Quindlen got a visit from a fairy godmother Wednesday.

The Hilton Head Island High School teacher was surprised with a $500 check during his after-school robotics club. The check is one of 12 grants the Foundation for Educational Excellence delivered by surprise to Beaufort County School District teachers Wednesday.

Quindlen applied for the grant to help offset some of the costs involved in building a robot for the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international event that challenges high school teams to build a robot that best completes specific tasks. Quindlen has sponsored the "Beachbotics" team at Hilton Head High for six years.

Quindlen said the money will allow the 18 students on the team some wiggle room to experiment with different gear sizes to find a way to get the most torque using the least amount of energy from a small motor.

Most of the money the team spends on the robot -- which cannot exceed $3,500 -- comes from group fundraisers, grants and "a fairy godmother," Quindlen said.

"It's not me that's winning," he said. "It's (the students). And everything helps."

Jan Davis-Vater, the chairwoman of the foundation, said the grants are meant to help teachers pay expenses that could otherwise come out of their pockets.The fund, part of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, was created in 2007. This is the third year the grants, which totaled about $5,000, have been awarded.

About 40 teachers applied for this round, Davis-Vater said. The foundation also awards grants in the spring, which typically draw more applicants.

Davis-Vater and Jan Williams, a foundation board member, spent all of Wednesday surprising teachers with money for projects such as outdoor classrooms, excavation kits for studying fossils and composting. Grants were awarded to teachers at all grade levels and across the district.

The best surprise, Davis-Vater said, came at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts. When she and Williams surprised teacher Sandy Courtney on the playground, 60 students swarmed them and jumped up and down in excitement.

"This is the rewarding part for me," Davis-Vater said. "This is what we're giving for."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at

Related links:

School district to honor native islander Chef David Young at gala; April 25, 2011

Foundation doles out $4,700 in first round of grants for' class projects; Dec. 2, 2009

Keywords: Beaufort County School District, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry, Foundation for Educational Excellence, Jan Davis-Vater, Jan Williams, John Quindlen, Hilton Head Island High School, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts