Thursday, December 7, 2023

Education foundation provides grant funding to teachers

Julie Brown - Special Writer

Brandi Smith sees inequities among area school districts in classroom funding. It is her job to help address that situation.

“It's such a foundation of what a community is,” the Canton Township resident said of school districts. Since this past January, her focus has been the Wayne-Westland Foundation for the Improvement of Instruction. Both a golf outing and a wine event draw business support, allowing the foundation to distribute grants to Wayne-Westland teachers for classroom use. One example? Tablets for kids who can't communicate.

“That is really just giving students greater opportunity,” the foundation executive director said of the $15,000 in grants awarded last spring. “I feel like this next year is going to continue to grow. It made me so excited and proud..”

The foundation origins go back to around 1980 and it was “revived” about five years ago, “so we can do more for the Wayne-Westland community,” said Maria Mitter, a school district staffer and Westland Rotary co-president. Mitter recently invited Smith to share foundation success with Rotarians.

The Wayne-Westland district is in a budget shortfall of some $17 million , although that's separate from foundation work which receives business support. 

Smith is a John Glenn High School graduate and recalled her own school days: “We didn't have to worry about bringing pencils and crayons.”

She earned a bachelor's degree from Eastern Michigan University and raised a family, including a child who's also a Glenn graduate.

“There was a need and it just kind of worked,” Smith said of the foundation. Twice a year, district teachers apply for grants. One social studies teacher received supplies to create an escape room, a popular trend.

“For teachers who want to do something really innovative, the foundation was founded,” Mitter said. 

Each grant can be as much as $1,000. The program is separate from the district Family Resource Center, which assists low-income families, in that it is more “classroom-oriented.”

Smith has seen greater opportunity in Plymouth-Canton district and others, and believes Wayne-Westland students count, too.  “Every kid deserves equality in education,” she concluded.

The Wayne-Westland Foundation for the Improvement of Instruction is online at