MYRTLE CREEK — Nathan White was teaching art classes at Coffenberry Middle School on Tuesday when three representatives from Northwest Community Credit Union came in with balloons and a big check.

White is one of 11 Douglas County educators, a nine different schools, to receive grants as part of the credit union’s Project Community, which will send mini-grant awards to 68 teachers in Oregon.

He will use the $1,500 to replace the kiln at the middle school, which was last replaced several decades ago.

“The ones that we have now are at least 40 years old, according to the research that I’ve done. This will be a big improvement,” White said. “I’d say probably the favorite projects for them to do are the clay projects and ceramics projects. That’ll help us actually fire them to the right temperature and get some nice even results.”

Coffenberry Middle School Principal Laura Smith encouraged all of her staff to apply for grants to help in their classrooms.

Smith said she was happy that White received the grant for the kiln, as ceramics are one of his specialties.

“We want him to be able to pass his knowledge on,” Smith said. “It makes a huge difference for the classroom.”

White is new to the school this year and teaches seven periods of art classes at the school, which means about 180 students this quarter go through his classroom each day.

“That art room hasn’t been utilized very much, because we haven’t had art. We’ve had teachers try to fill in the gap, but this is the first year we have an actual teacher,” Smith said. “We’re really excited to have him.”

Teachers submitted requests for help with classroom supplies, technology, books, special projects or field trips to support creative curriculum and classroom experiences in elementary, middle and high schools across the state.

White said he was happily surprised to be among the grant winners.

This is the fifth year of the Project Community mini-grant program and by Friday, 321 teachers will have received more than $300,000 in funding.

“Project Community was designed to boost the work of educators who create meaningful learning experiences for kids,” Northwest Community Credit Union President and CEO John Iglesias said in a press release. “We want to help inspire learning, by supporting the innovative ideas of teachers who just need a little assistance to implement a great lesson plan.”

In most cases, staff from the credit union handed out the checks to the educators. Surprise check presentations in Douglas County were made Tuesday, when credit union staff were able to hand out more than $15,300 to teachers in the county.

Northwest Community Credit Union awarded $11,600 to fund projects that will teach students about saving, money handling, personal finance and other financial practices.

Douglas High School social studies and business teacher Jason Tingle received one of these Financial Reality Grant to purchase online personal finance instruction and build financial literacy for students.

A total of $76,000 will be presented to teachers in Oregon this week. A list of all winners will be available online Friday at

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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