Left: Dana Franchi receives her grant check from Jonathan Dela Cruz. Right: Jonathan Dela Cruz presents the grant check to teacher Lauren Gura.

The $787.80 and $890 grants awarded to Dana Franchi and Lauren Gura, respectively, will be used to fund their classroom projects

Two teachers at Mary Morgan Elementary School in Byron Community School District 226 were recently awarded grants through Western Governors University’s (WGU) “Fund My Classroom” initiative.

Dana Franchi, a K-5 art teacher, received a $787.80 grant that will be used to purchase materials for creativity building stations in her classroom to increase students’ fine and gross motor skills.

Lauren Gura, a fourth-grade teacher, received a $890 grant that will allow her to purchase supplies to create a makerspace for students to explore their passions and interests.

Both Franchi and Gura learned they were selected for the grants on May 3 when they were surprised with check presentations at their school.

The $787.80 grant awarded to Franchi will be used to purchase a variety of interactive items to fill a void in the classroom that the regular art budget cannot accommodate. Franchi has noticed a recent decline in creativity and fine and gross motor skills among her art students as exposure to technology has increased over the years.

The grant from WGU will help to foster creativity and imaginative play in her classroom by allowing her to add wooden block sets, a Lincoln Logs farm playset, magnetic building tiles, farm and zoo animal figures, a Play-Doh Fun Factory set, calligraphy art set, marble maze and Lego set to the mix.

Gura will use the $890 grant to create a makerspace in her classroom, containing tools, crafts, technology and other supplies that will allow her students to build, make, explore, solve problems and creatively show their learning. The space will also give students a chance to work collaboratively with one another.

Since returning to school after COVID-19 lock downs, Gura has seen many of her students struggle with finding their purpose in their education.

Gura believes this space will help her students take control of their learning and work on skills that are necessary for success in school, including the ability to organize ideas, conduct research, collaborate with peers and think through alternative solutions.

The funding provided by WGU will allow Gura to obtain items such as stackable storage containers, craft materials, beginner sewing kits, a 3Doodler Pen and more to bring this makerspace to life.

The innovative classroom projects were among 27 across Illinois chosen by WGU to receive funding. The nonprofit, fully online university issued a call in March for K-12 teachers across the state to nominate proposed classroom projects by April 17 for the opportunity to receive full or partial funding through its “Fund My Classroom” initiative.

More than 80 nominations were received statewide. Most grants were awarded during Teacher Appreciation Week, which ran from May 2-6.

“We received nominations for some amazing classroom projects, and we are happy to bring so many to life through this year’s ‘Fund My Classroom’ initiative,” said Dr. Terrance Hopson, Regional Director of Western Governors University. “When it comes to expanding classroom curriculum and employing innovative techniques to engage and challenge students, teachers are often limited by costs. This initiative is an opportunity for WGU to give back to teachers, who go above and beyond to educate our students, by providing them with funding they can use to further enhance learning both in and out of the classroom.”

To learn more about the “Fund My Classroom” initiative and the work WGU is doing to help teachers advance their careers, visit

About WGU

Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 131,000 students nationwide and has more than 277,000 graduates.

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