Equitable Innovation Grant Winners


The Greater LA Education Foundation (GLA) and the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) have selected the second annual grantees for the Teachers of the Year Equitable Innovation Grant program. The Equitable Innovation Grant program invests in educator-led solutions to support projects, programs, and services that integrate student-centered learning techniques, tools to create dynamic learning environments, and promote educator wellness.

This year, GLA will sponsor 41 educator projects from 22 districts. These projects will reach more than 21,000 students across Los Angeles County, 75% of whom come from under-resourced backgrounds and qualify for free or reduced lunch. Projects will impact every grade level and subject, from TK to continuation high school students. Grantees range from classroom teachers to school counselors, and administrators to coaches. Twenty-two of the projects were developed by individual educators, while 20 were developed by a team of two or three. All projects were developed by educators to address the unique needs of their students and school communities.

Congratulations to this year’s grantees!

Jacob Theis, Magnolia Science Academy 6
Jacob Theis will bring monthly wellness services for the teachers and staff of his school, who face fatigue, stress and anxiety in the wake of the pandemic and don’t have consistent access to wellness services. By bringing in massage services, yoga classes and guided meditation, teachers and staff will be able to re-focus and feel energized to continue serving their students.
Patricia Enenmoh, Vista Continuation High School
Patricia Enenmoh will use Horticultural Therapy to aid special needs students in the Adult Transition Program in their shift from students to independent adulthood. She plans to add a raised garden bed to the campus. Organic produce will be used in cooking lessons in Independent Living Skills classes.
Elizabeth Neskovska, Valley View Elementary School
The kindergarten team at Valley View Elementary School will create a Sensory Play Zone, which includes water and sand tables, STEM building materials, shade structures and picnic tables. The Sensory Play Zone will be a tool to combat speech and language delays, anxiety, and fine and gross motor skills, all of which their students increasingly face. Sensory play encourages group work, creativity, emotional wellness, and equitable access to materials.
Elva Madrigal, John H. Francis Polytechnic High School
Elva Madrigal will use the graphic novel March by John Lewis as part of the curriculum for her US History and Government class. March will help scaffold the themes of civil liberties and civil rights in US History and will complement her school’s voter registration drive for Global Youth Service Day, inspiring students to be future leaders.
Lisa Wright, Rosecrans Elementary School
Lisa Wright will help her students establish a growth mindset by using the Big Life Journal for Teens and Tweens as a resource and teaching tool. This resource includes a teaching guide and lesson plans. The Big Life Journal incorporates social-emotional learning into the classroom, encouraging confidence and self-confidence in her middle school students.
Denise Sudik, Newhall Elementary School
By using the program “Storyboard That”, Denise Sudik’s 4th grade students will demonstrate content knowledge through the creation of comic strips. The comic strip format allows students to actively engage with material, creates opportunities for collaboration and enhances socio/emotional development. Demonstrating knowledge visually allows students at all English-speaking levels to express themselves equally.
Emily Smith, McKinley School
Emily Smith will bring a concrete Social and Emotional Learning curriculum to her 3rd grade classroom. The SEL curriculum focuses on emotions, differences, diversity, culture, responsibility, self-awareness, relationship skills and social awareness.
Gilbert Navarro, Jellick Elementary
The teaching team at Jellick Elementary will purchase a school-wide license to WeVideo, a web-based video production application. Students will produce videos in all subjects, cultivating creativity and building 21st century technology skills.
Mary Ruth Anzai-Kawasaki, Community Day School
As a Career Vocation Assistant, Mary Ruth Anzai-Kawasaki will purchase proper work tools for her students to perform vocational skills. Having the correct tools will help special needs students between the ages of 18-22 feel better prepared and more confident to enter the workforce.
Cynthia Chavez, Birney Tech Academy
Cynthia Chavez will replace half of her 3rd grade’s standardized unit assessments with Performance Tasks and Inquiry Projects. In order to demonstrate knowledge, students will create projects and presentations, such as artwork, videos, posters, and brochures. Performance Tasks allow students to capitalize on strengths and increase their receptive and expressive skills.
Patricia Allaf, La Fetra Elementary School
La Fetra’s Intervention students in grades 3, 4 and 5 will lead the “Compassion in Action” Water Awareness Project. The students will promote water conservation by leading school-wide assemblies on information garnered through research and hands-on lessons. The Intervention students will lead hands-on activities for the student body throughout Earth Week. This project will empower and educate students who struggle academically.
Christian Mais, Birney Tech Elementary
The 3rd grade teachers plan to implement a daily yoga, physical education and mindfulness program for their students. Focusing on games that encourage teamwork, cooperation and communication, the program will help students with anxiety and social wellness skills as they transition back to the classroom after the pandemic.
D. Electra Stafford, Glendale High School
The team at Glendale High School plans to open a Wellness Center, which will be a space to access services and resources that address social and emotional needs of students and staff. The team will focus on student wellness, educator wellness and community building and student socialization.
Melissa Ruiz, Lugo Elementary School
Melissa Ruiz will design a “Motor Sensory Pathway” and a “Peace Pathway” on their playground. These spaces will help students self-regulate and solve conflicts. There will also be a designated, private space in the classroom to conduct small group sessions focusing on the social-emotional needs of students. Lastly, there will be a library of Social-Emotional counseling tools and materials for teachers and staff to access.
Joyce Kubo-Nishikawa, Bennett-Kew P-8 Leadership Academy
Joyce Kubo-Nishikawa will provide a mouse pen for each student in her 4th grade class. This tool will allow students to work more efficiently and with greater confidence on online whiteboards and digital platforms. Used for daily instruction, it will increase student engagement and allow for social distancing.
Maria Zavala, Claremont High School
Maria Zavala will create a digital recording space in her 11th grade English classroom. In order to develop listening, writing and speaking skills, students will use digital recording tools to create podcasts and audio narratives. Using this tool will help students engage with literature and discuss difficult themes in a creative way.
Anne Shin, McKinley Elementary
Anne Shin will provide art therapy to her special education students. In small group sessions, students can express their feelings and process trauma. Lessons will involve drawing, writing poetry, and incorporating art and stories.
Eleni Maureas, Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet
Wright Middle School STEAM Magnet will combine orchestra, band, jazz band and theater to stage a musical production of The Little Mermaid. Teachers will incorporate project-based learning by incorporating culturally relevant curriculum around the history and story of The Little Mermaid, and environmental science in conjunction with the San Pedro Aquarium. Students, families and staff will all contribute to the production of the play.
Diana Babb, Traweek Middle School
Diana Babb will update her science classroom with new power strips in order to create a safe working and learning environment. This will allow her students to use their technology and lab equipment more efficiently and will reduce potential hazards in the classroom.
Merek Chang, William Workman High
Merek Chang will purchase a water filtration system for his Biology and Chemistry classes. This will be used in his students’ water filtration lab, where students compare filtered and tap water on campus. This will also provide students with access to clean drinking water, and potentially reduce single-use plastics on campus.
Brielle Peich, Rowland Avenue Elementary School
Brielle Peich will use cooking activities to engage her 1st grade classroom across multiple subjects. They will use math, teambuilding activities, and reading skills to make and eat healthy food, including recipes provided by students’ families and from various cultural backgrounds.
Lynda Lemon-Rush, Cedargrove Elementary School
The Cedargrove team will establish WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS, a free 8-week afterschool program for students in grades 4-6 who are struggling academically or are in need of emotional support. Students will be provided with healthy snack, “mental fitness” such as yoga and mindfulness strategies, academic support and organized STEAM play activities.
Denise Carey, Washington Elementary
Denise Carey will take a professional development course on teacher mental health. By learning to combat burnout and create a better work/life balance, she can learn how to best support her own mental health, and therefore provide academic acceleration for students.
Gene Simons, Temple City High School
Gene Simons will add a small public address system with a speaker stand and wireless microphone. By adding this sound system, teachers can better project their voice through masks in the classroom, and students can add sound to videos and projects. Teachers can provide instruction at a higher volume and with greater clarity.
LaTeira Haynes, Mervin M. Dymally High School
La Teira Hines will work with a cohort of students to get them certified in CPR and First Aid. Students in the Biomedical Science and Research Magnet Center will have the opportunity to learn from industry professionals and get industry-recognized certifications.
Marlene L. Ramirez, Bella Vista Elementary School
The PTA team offers an afterschool program called Dragon Juniors for students in TK-6th grade. The program is run by parents and collaborators in the community and uses STEAM activities to run age-appropriate projects and culturally relevant curriculum.
Trasey Normachi, Venice High School
The World Languages and Global Studies Magnet team uses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a teaching tool by having their students gain experiential knowledge on how to inform others about global issues. Focusing on Zero Hunger, they will bring in guest speakers and arrange field trips to help the students create projects, which will be presented to the school and community.
Nancy Castaneda, Covina-Valley Unified School District Elementary Schools
Three elementary school counselors across all nine elementary schools in the district will purchase a social-emotional curriculum package to implement with all grade levels across the school sites. They will provide a multi-tiered system of support to promote student social-emotional development.
Melissa Ayala, Garey High School
The Community Schools team will provide students with a series of workshops on healthy coping strategies. Monthly workshops will include information on mental health and strategies for dealing with stress. There will also be a workshop for incoming freshmen, and resources provided for staff and teachers.
Emily Alderette, Dickison Elementary

The 5th grade teaching team will purchase new PE equipment and revitalize the school garden and play yard where the students will have a safe outdoor environment. Students will have gardening instruction, and cooperative teambuilding activities through physical activity.

Hector Perez-Roman, Arleta High School
Hector Perez-Roman will create a student-led podcast project through topics that promote mental health and wellness. The student-centered podcast project will be led by The WeUpstanders Club, whose mission is to promote kindness. Podcast episode topics will include dealing with social anxiety, how to get involved in school activities, creating healthy relationships, and how to stay motivated.
Gustavo Martinez, Nogales High School
The Football coaching team will take the team on a rock climbing and ropes course fieldtrip. This will create stronger relationships between the coaching staff and players. Students will get training in overcoming adversity, combatting fear, and perseverance. This will result in community building, team bonding and trust.
Jennifer Young, Westhoff Elementary School
School counselor, Jennifer Young will transform her office into a safe counseling center. The room will be a place to de-escalate, learn coping tools and refresh. She will purchase SEL books, games and resources for students to take home.
Maritza Cha, San Gabriel High School
The team of counselors will create the Matador Calming Room. This will be a therapeutic room for students to go to if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This resource will add to the toolbox of what students can access when they need new coping strategies.
Alexis Mele, South Hills High School
Alexis Mele will stock the school Wellness Center with resources and tools for student use, such as yoga mats, art materials and comfortable seating. She will also provide training and curriculum for the Peer Counseling pathway course.
Matthew Mena, ISANA Achernar Academy
Teachers and administrators will provide SEL lessons to help students better comprehend their emotions. The students will be introduced to different forms of visual art, will then create artwork that reflects their emotions. There will be a showcase of their visual art pieces.
Scott Hughes, Washington Elementary
The music education team will purchase classroom instruments and dancing scarves to provide safe, hands-on and engaging ways for students to express themselves musically. These tools will give the students COVID-safe ways to musically engage with each other.
Erin Leyva, Glen Oak Elementary
The Glen Oak team will develop a program to increase students’ awareness of their individual needs and feelings, and how to respond to those feelings in a healthy way. They will develop a multi-sensory environment where students can practice self-regulation and understand their individual sensory needs.
Maria Mauna, Santana High School
The team at Santana High School will open a Wellness Center and Pantry for students who need additional support. They will establish a place for students to request and receive items they need in a private way; they plan to provide items such as toiletries, clothes and hygiene kits.
Lizette Canales, Columbus High School
Funds will be used to promote the Wellness Center on campus and help destigmatize mental health through outreach events. They will offer art therapy tools, sensory materials and learning resources, as well as posters, art and decorative pieces to promote mental health and the Wellness Center.
Leticia Cobar, Nueva Vista Elementary
Leticia Cobar will offer weekly STEM activities for her 3rd-grade students. Students will receive their own materials to complete the hands-on activities and tasks. The activities will encourage teamwork, creativity, and critical thinking skills.


This opportunity is possible because of the generous support from our sponsors and partners.


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