Public can help Winslow Township Middle School teacher and Marlton resident earn up to $15,000 for…

Public can help Winslow Township Middle School teacher and Marlton resident earn up to $15,000 for his school

Winslow Township Middle School is a finalist in the BernzOmatic “Find Your Fire” community grants program. Supporters can go online and vote for WTMS’s project to create a makerspace and outdoor garden for the school.

Ross Cruz, third from right, celebrates being named 2015–2016 Winslow Township School District teacher of the year with his family and WTMS Principal Stella Nwanguma, second from right, and Winslow Township School District Superintendent H. Major Poteat, Ed.D., far right.

By ZANE CLARK

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The Sun

Marlton resident and Winslow Township Middle School teacher Ross Cruz recalls first becoming interested in teaching after thinking about the positive impact a teacher had on his life when he was a student.

Now Cruz has a chance to a have a positive impact not only on the students he teaches, but also his entire school with an opportunity to win up to $15,000 through the BernzOmatic “Find Your Fire” community grants program.

Winslow Township Middle School is already one of 10 national finalists to win $1,500 from the torch manufacturing company, but if the middle school receives enough votes online, the school could receive and additional $5,000, $7,500 or even $15,000.

BernzOmatic describes the program as a way to “celebrate the creative and curiosity of makers across the country,” which Cruz said the school plans to do if awarded a grand prize.

Recently, the middle school initiated STEM and Environmental STEM courses to introduce seventh- and eighth-grade students to topics such as robotics, circuitry, hydroponic farming, water and soil health, and more.

Cruz’s application saw him outline the idea for a new “maker space” at WTMS where students and teachers of all subject areas could come together in one room where they’d have the tools to create, invent and learn.

Funding would go toward the purchase of equipment such as a 3D printer, safety gear, tools and supplies, and funds would also be used to construct an outdoor garden and greenhouse on school grounds.

Cruz, who teaches the environmental STEM course, said he was shocked at first when he learned WTMS had been selected as a finalist, and his mood quickly turned to ecstatic.

“There are a lot of candidates that really are as deserving as we are … but I couldn’t wait to share the news with everyone,” Cruz said. “I thought of my students and coworkers and the building, as this could really change the way we do instruction in the classroom.”

Cruz said the students he teaches love their work in STEM where they use different equipment to create new designs and overcome challenges. If awarded the grant money, Cruz said he could spread that work to the whole school.

“Just for the students in this building who don’t have exposure to STEM — it would realign our instruction and allow our kids to not only learn the concepts but to actually apply concepts in practice,” Cruz said.

Cruz said he hopes members of the community will take a look at the potential opportunities the grant would provide for the school’s current students and students for years to come.

“Getting kids involved with a STEM-based field gives them a chance to hopefully continue through high school, college and their careers,” Cruz said.

To help Cruz and WTMS, supporters can visit bernzomatic.com/grants. Voting is open through Dec. 31, and supporters can vote for WTMS once each day.

Winners will be announced online the week of Jan. 23.

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