Thirty Darien teachers received $17,273 in grants by the Darien Advocates for the Education of the Gifted (DAEG) last school year.

This money goes toward advanced studies, workshops, conferences and curriculum development costs that fall outside the regular school budget. "This is the largest number of grants we have awarded and the total dollar amount is the highest in our fund's recent history," wrote Carolyn Langelier and Mia Mitchell-Cortellesi.

Donations averaged roughly $10,000 a year from 2006-2008, but the past three years saw a $6,000 increase in average annual donations. The money is distributed by the Barbara Harrington Fund, which, in partnership with DAEG, has delivered nearly $80,000 for education initiatives in town since 2006.

"Thanks to the generosity of the Darien community, we are pleased to be able to approve so many requests from teachers," Langelier and Mitchell-Cortellesi stated.

The Barbara Harrington Fund was created in 1984 to honor Barbara Harrington, a teacher who established Darien's Idea program for gifted students. Grants are available to all teachers in Darien Public Schools.

While the $17,000 amounts to a fraction of school spending, the money enables Darien teachers to gain experience that they can use to help entire classes or individual students. This year, a large number of teachers applied as partners with each other to further the collaborative theme, which is a key tenet in Darien Schools' goals and objectives: "Children and adults learn best in a collaborative environment," states the school document.

Examples of partnership grants include a project by Keith Satter and Jessica Scalise at Royle School, who will explore geometry concepts to create a unit to help students better understand shapes. High school art teachers Michelle Currier and Dorine Bosler are attending a ceramics class to improve their approach to their students' portfolios. Elementary music teachers Ruth Lettera and Sophie Kozlowski will attend a week-long course on using SMART boards in their classrooms.

"The most widespread collaboration this year involves the Columbia University Teachers College Summer Institute in Reading and Writing," the women wrote. Six teachers from Royle, two from Tokeneke and one from Holmes will be attending the reading institute.

Royal teachers received eight grants, more than any other school. The high school got six grants, Middlesex three, Hindley one, Ox Ridge three, Holmes four and Tokeneke three. Two grants were given to multiple-schools.

More than 30% of the grants went for English and language arts, and 17% went toward special education programs. Two grants were awarded for World Languages; one to Hai-Ming Wu to travel to Taiwan to purchase calligraphy pens and paper for her Mandarin students, and one to Charlene Riordan who will participate in Dartmouth's Summer Institute to learn about Roman and Greek culture.

ddesroches@darientimes.com