The Gilbert Education Foundation presented 33 grants to educators across the Gilbert Unified School District on Tuesday to supplement material or classroom projects.
Foundation president Karen Udall said the $16,044 in grants will help 8,500 students.
Those receiving grants were surprised by groups of foundation members who presented bundles of balloons and checks ranging up to $500.
"We’re calling it the Mini Grant Money Buses," said Udall of the buses that took presenting groups to schools.
Educators were amazed as groups walked into their classrooms, checks in hand.
Science teacher Jennifer Greene at the Technology and Leadership Academy in Gilbert was surprised with a check as she finished teaching a class. She said she would use the $465 grant to take students to the Arizona Science Center to experience a flight simulator.
"It ties in with our curriculum because next semester we are studying the laws of physics," Greene said. "In the past, it has been hard for students to grasp the concepts."
Brian Feldman, a specialeducation teacher at Highland Junior High School in Mesa, said his students are going to learn life skills with his $500 grant.
He said he tries to teach his students real-life skills by instructing them on such things as the use of money and ordering from a menu.
He said he plans to take the students to two plays and to dinner. At the theater they will learn to find their seats and at a restaurant they will learn how to order their own meals.
Udall said the winners were unknown to her even though grant applications are submitted to her. She "blinds" them by marking out any information such as names, phone numbers and school names.
She then submits them to a grant specialist who selects readers to evaluate the applications. Each application is reviewed and scored by two readers. All those scoring 30 points or more out of a possible 60 received grants.
This is the second year for the program. Funds are raised at an annual benefit dinner and silent auction in April.