CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Champaign Unit 4 and Urbana School District #116 are looking forward to innovative projects that will be made possible by a more than $92,000 grant from the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation.

The grant aims to support local public school educators and set their students up for success. A record 232 teachers applied for the grant this fall. The money will support 130 new projects. Every first-year teacher across both districts received $100 to help all 82 of them set up their classrooms for the first time.

Urbana Early Childhood Center plans to use their grant money to install a new aquarium. This will help pre-kindergarden teachers like Londa Neely better teach their students about aquatic life.

“The aquarium will help students learn about what it means to care for a living thing, make scientific observations, and develop a sense of responsibility,” Neely said. “We will also explore ecology, water quality, and tank care topics.”

Molly Hooper of International Prep Academy Middle School and Amy Lozar of South Side Elementary will be using their new funds to partner up and teach students sewing skills. 300 students will be instructed on techniques such as hand sewing/embroidering, machine sewing, and adding accents. Creating and pattern-making will help foster students’ mathematical thinking, as measurement, spatial reasoning, geometry and multiplication are all subjects used often in sewing projects.

A grant from Urbana Middle School Visual Arts Teachers Janice Knight and Rusty Clevenger will also benefit their students. The Krannert Art Museum, Siebel Center for Design, and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts are allowing 180 eighth grade visual arts students to spend a day at the U of I campus meeting experts in Art and Design.

Fifth grade students at Bottenfield Elementary School have monthly, year-round meetings with kindergarten students to help mentor them in essential subjects like literacy, math and science. The money from CUSF will allow the Bottenfield Buddies to hold an end-of-year celebration by taking a field trip to Staerkel Planetarium on the Parkland campus.

More details on all the 2023-24 CUSF teacher grant recipients can be found at