June 20 2023

Congratulations to our 2023 MELA grant recipients!

MELA award being presented to teacher

We were proud to join the Graves Foundation in presenting the 2023 Minneapolis Educator Leadership Awards (MELA) to ten outstanding Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) leaders and educators, which will fund creative projects that impact student achievement, go above and beyond to better the lives of students outside the classroom, and improve our school communities.

Now in its eighth year, MELA was created to provide opportunities for educators to recognize their peers, and we're proud to have a process that is entirely educator-focused and led, from nominations to proposals. Educators can be nominated by colleagues, community members, and even students. Nominees are invited to submit proposals, with winning proposals selected by a committee of teachers and staff who are actively working in MPS and have received the award in the past.

This year's MELA recipients received a combined $75,000+ for their creative projects, including:

Phebe Carr from Lucy Craft Laney Community School: History Makers

Phebe’s project celebrates her students and treats them as true Kings and Queens of Kindergarten. With support from her MELA grant, she will take them on a shopping spree at Open House, with a selection of pants, socks and shows that let them feel their best. “We will shower our students with black and brown history-makers, but more than just picture books and posters,” says Phebe. “We will create Because of Them We Can boxes that provide hands on activities, t-shirts and props that lay a foundation for celebrating and achieving.”

Jason Jirsa from Washburn High School: Model United Nations for All

This project increases global competencies, which are skills that transcend the classroom. The goal of this project is to help students better understand themselves, empathize and communicate with others, and take action to make a more just world.

Anna Lehn from Ella Baker Global Studies and Humanities Magnet School: Embodied Learning Interactive Global Competency Launch Day

This project will establish four interactive days to launch quarterly global competency focuses with 95 eighth grade students. Global competencies are skills that transcend the classroom, helping students better understand themselves, empathize and communicate with others, and take action to make a more just world.

Shannon McGuire from Northeast Middle School: Safety Measures First and Performing Fun!

Shannon's project focuses on providing safety and comfort for all students to perform with ease and musicality in rehearsals and performances throughout the school year and years to come. With support from the MELA grant, new stage risers will be purchased that are safe and secure, with a back railing for choir music and theater curriculum.

Katherine McNamee from Lucy Craft Laney Community School: Can I Play?

Katherine’s project addresses the need for equipment and materials that will allow more elementary students to be included in daily school activities such as recess and specialist classes. Students who are physically and neurologically diverse deserve to have access to equipment such as adapted bikes, easy grip art supplies, full support swings and flexible seating options. With these materials readily available, they can experience the same joy as their neurotypical peers during extracurricular activities.

Christopher Michael from Patrick Henry High School: Henry Drama Club 2023-2024 Season

Henry Drama Club is a safe, inclusive, and creative space for all Northside students (K-12th grade). With support from this project, auditions will be extended to Henry’s feeder school Olson Middle School, and hopefully, Jenny Lind. Christopher says he wants students to be excited about attending high school at Henry. There are also plans in development for a summer theater camp that provides paid internship work for students and provides the community with more theater opportunities.

Andrew Molle from Transition Plus Services: Community & Conversation through Gaming

The goal of Andrew's project is to create a safe and welcoming space for a diverse community of youth with disabilities where they can create new friendships, build their social emotional skills, develop communication skills, and learn the technological skills to participate in the growing world of E-sports within their city and beyond.

Rachel Stewart from Hall STEM Academy: Physical Education Matters at Hall STEM Academy

Rachel's fierce love for our students, families and school community is prevalent in so many aspects of what IS the difference that makes the difference at Hall. Her leadership, presence and contributions are invaluable to Hall, to MPS, and to the Minneapolis community

San Van Hoy from Las Estrellas Dual Language School: Grow, Play, Learn! Outdoor Learning Space at Las Estrellas

This project will improve outdoor spaces for 4th graders to support peer-to-peer interactions during recess, foster a greater love and appreciation of nature in our school community, and improve academic outcomes for students. This work creates opportunities for hands-on and outdoor learning during science class and promotes healthy social interactions for our students when they go outside to play.

Sharon White from Longfellow Alternative High School: Longfellow Student Leaders “Dare to Be Real”

Dare to Be Real is a leadership pipeline program for anti-racist student leaders. In this project, Dare to be Real student leaders in grades 7-12 will develop increased leadership skills and make accelerated progress toward graduation and their academic goals. They will feel empowered as the main decision makers and leaders in the school and will also be held accountable for their attendance and participation.

MELA awards are administered by Achieve Twin Cities in partnership with the John & Denise Graves Foundation. For more information, visit the MELA website or contact mpsgrants@achievetwincities.org. Nominations for 2024 MELA awards will go live this fall.

Find out why Lisa Moy from the Graves Foundation loves supporting educators through MELA.

Learn more about MELA grants and other funds available for Minneapolis Public Schools classrooms, staff and student scholarships.

Enjoy these photos from the MELA award ceremony at Kieran's Food Hall

MELA Awards
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Danielle speaking
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Award winners