Guest Post from a NEA Foundation Grantee: Grant Writing: A Good ROI

By Lisa Bender

Lisa Bender is a business teacher at Southern Garrett High School in Oakland, Maryland. She was awarded a Learning and Leadership Grant from the NEA Foundation in September

In the business world, ROI (Return On Investment) is a popular metric used to measure the effectiveness of time and money spent on a project.  There are ways to apply this metric to the teaching world too! A good example of this is my grant writing effort for a NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grant.

After spending a fourth consecutive day off school snowbound last winter, I decided to hide the TV remote (I convinced myself I shouldn’t watch another morning talk show or sitcom re-run). Surely, I could find something positive to do that was connected to my profession.  So, I decided to look for a grant to enhance my own personal professional development.  And, it paid off!

Eight months later, with the help of a Learning & Leadership grant from the NEA Foundation, I found myself in Miami Florida at the annual conference for Economic Education networking and discovering best practices that I can apply to my own classroom and share with colleagues.   

The grant writing process can be intimidating, but I found that it can help you look at your teaching practices through a different lens. Each grant has different qualifying factors and I have found it as a good exercise to reflect on how to reach out to students in a new way.  A good example is a lesson I now am incorporating into my Personal Finance Class.  
At the conference, I learned about lessons created by the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank called “Katrina’s Classroom: Financial Lessons From a Hurricane.” Every day, I teach my students to become better consumers, learn how to save and invest, and to be aware of credit card fraud, but I never considered the importance of financial awareness during a disaster.

In addition to the information I was able to glean at the conference, I picked up a four-part DVD-based curriculum that was an ideal supplement for the lessons I teach on banking and budgeting.  It has revealed unique perspectives to my students as they listened to high school students their own age describe how their families endured Hurricane Katrina and the financial hardships and lessons they learned from the experience.  I doubt that I would have incorporated these supplemental lessons into my regular curriculum if I hadn’t attended that conference.

I would recommend grant writing to any teacher who wishes to “seek what is missing” from their teaching.  I looked at my own career and classroom and knew that I would be teaching new courses in the area of financial literacy (a subject I am very passionate about) and I wanted to figure out a way I could enhance my teaching abilities in this subject.  This grant and the conference served as the perfect opportunity.

Taking the time and energy to write the grant proved to be a very good return on investment (ROI).  It’s a business strategy that works not just in the boardroom, but in the classroom too!   

Lisa’s links to helpful financial literacy lessons:


December 25, 2010 @ 4:28 AM
Your article was motivating for me. I have a desire to grant write, but are there some important tips you could share about grant writing? I would appreciate some insight. Thank You!

Monica Gilbert
January 13, 2011 @ 1:35 PM
Lisa Bender is a fine example of what good educators should be in order to teach our children effectively. Times have changed and some teaching methods should be enhanced to better fill the ever changing needs of today's student. I am inspired by Bender's willingness to take the time to look for ways to make a difference in her teaching ability. I am currently working as a Para Educator in a Sped classroom and I am going back to school to get a degree in Spedcial Education. I too am looking for different ways to raise funds to pay for school because Para Educators are not paid much money. Therefore, Bender's story is am inspiration for me to continue to better myself.

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