Ellwood teacher gets an A+ for Energy

While most teachers were kicking up their heels with joy at the end of the last school year, Ellwood’s Deborah Gans was digging hers in … to submit a last minute grant application. The effort paid off: last week global energy provider BP awarded Gans $10,000 to help teach her sixth grade students about energy and how it affects their lives.

The end of the school year is crazy for teachers, especially those with graduating sixth graders. “It’s total chaos,” said Gans, who didn’t even think about the “A+ for Energy” application until about June 22. It was due the end of that month. Gans said she just started dreaming about what she would do with her class if she had that $10,000, an unheard of program budget in these tight economic times.

Among the wish list projects Gans and her class will now get to see happen: the creation of solar cars and a solar car raceway; field trips to oil rigs, a sanitation plant and a landfill; creation of an electronics circuitry lab; and water wheels and wind energy demonstrations.

The other Ellwood sixth graders will also benefit from Gans’ grant. Each class will get its own electronics lab, digital camera and other specialized equipment. Sixth grade students will also design an online scavenger hunt and a coloring book for the primary students, to help share what they’ve learned about energy use and conservation.

Gans also plans to get the other Goleta Schools in the act by challenging them to a competition to cut the most electrical and water usage and recycle the largest percentage of reusable material. “The winning school gets a prize … it’s going to be an ice cream feed,” she said.

BP’s A+ for Energy program awarded $2 million in cash grants to 1,075 California K-12 teachers who use innovative ideas to teach kids about energy and energy conservation. The winning teachers and their principals, including Gans and Ellwood School Principal JoAnne Meade Young, attended a celebratory awards event Oct. 5 at Universal Studios’ Globe Theatre.

“The party was really nice and they even paid for our substitutes,” said Gans, showing off fun pictures of herself and Young starring with Marilyn Monroe, the Nutty Professor and Doc Brown from Back to the Future. “My favorite picture is actually this one,” she said. “They had a red carpet for us.”

“The program is all about enhancing teachers’ efforts to create a spark in a child’s mind, encouraging them to reach further, be creative and excel,” said Irene A. Brown, BP’s Director, California Community Relations.

Gans was the only South Coast teacher selected from more than 5,000 applications from all over California. Each grant recipient will also get a scholarship to attend a five-day energy training conference hosted by the National Energy Education Development (NEED) Project in Long Beach in the summer of 2005.

“BP (probably best known to Californians probably through ARCO, its West Coast gasoline brand) knows that teachers set the standard for excellence in education,” said Brown.

Sounds like an A+ to us.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 14, 2004.