ESUSD Educators Innovate Instructional Delivery with Grants from Rotary Club

The El Segundo Rotary Club Mini Grant program is very important to us,” said Val Smith, president of the El Segundo Rotary Club. “We usually conduct this program in the fall but at the suggestion of ESUSD Superintendent Melissa Moore, we waited until spring and were very happy to award the mini grants to teachers at four El Segundo school sites.”


The Rotary Mini Grant program was originally conceived in 1997 by a Xerox employee who pitched the idea to then Rotary President Nancy Cobb, also a former member of ESUSD’s Board of Education. Over the years, the program has grown to include generous donations from local businesses, community members, the El Segundo Chamber of Commerce, and even matching funds from Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn.


In the 2020-21 school year, these grants became even more important by helping teachers pivot to distance and hybrid learning and reimagine instruction in a digital environment. We would like to highlight four ESUSD educators who used their Rotary grants to enhance student-centered learning: Tony Bancroft (ESMS iMusic, beginning band and guitar), Rosalind Darbeau (ESHS symphony orchestra; ESMS orchestra, strings, and guitar), Allison Davis (ESHS jazz and advanced bands; ESMS intermediate and concert bands), and Lauren Turner (ESHS mathematics).


“I’m so thankful to the El Segundo Rotary Club. I have applied for the mini grants for years and they have never failed to come through for me,” said El Segundo High School geometry and FST teacher Lauren Turner. “I always receive at least a small grant and I’m so appreciative.”


Transforming Math Education to Better Meet Needs of Students

This year, Turner used her Rotary grant toward a scholarship to The Modern Classrooms Project Summer Institute which helps educators transform their classroom (whether in-person or online) to employ a student-centered model of blended learning. Turner will be paired with a mentor for a four-week intensive professional development workshop this summer where she will create a plan for implementing blended, self-paced, mastery-based instruction in her classroom next fall, as well as three complete lessons worth of instructional materials.


Turner first used The Modern Classroom Project’s free and paid educator resources when school transitioned to full distance learning with little notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “When school closed in March 2020, I was looking for instructional resources and ways to transform my very traditional teaching approaches to methods that would work better for online instruction,” said Turner. “I was really excited to also implement these new instructional delivery techniques in the physical classroom, because I know it will improve the learning experience for each of my students.” Through the Modern Classroom workshops, she learned about creating instructional videos to replace lectures, which empowered her students to learn at their own pace and could be used in or outside of class. “I can get a lot of good instruction in 6-9 minute videos which is the ideal length for student retention and engagement,” said Turner. “I also provide guided note sheets to accompany the videos. Students can pause/rewind the video as needed, and they can do a spot check quiz which can be repeated as often as needed to achieve mastery.”


In a “Modern Classroom” differentiation becomes the core of instruction. Teacher-created instructional videos replace lectures, giving students the ability to advance at their own paces, while teachers spend class time providing targeted support.


The nonprofit Modern Classroom project was created by educators for educators. A video about The Modern Classrooms Project ( and its resources for educators are available online:


Social Emotional Learning and Music Education Integrated

El Segundo High School and El Segundo Middle School music teachers Tony Bancroft, Rosalind Darbeau, and Allison Davis have collaborated to use their Rotary mini grants to seamlessly pair Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with music education. They purchased method books from Music FUNdations that integrate instruction of music skills and SEL skills in a unique and interesting way.


The music teachers were also looking for instructional delivery tools and digital resources that would translate well for distance and hybrid learning environments. “The Music FUNdations methods are integrated in a way that work really well,” said Allison Davis. These workbooks are very effective and different from what has been available.” The workbook’s five chapters are sequentially built to address the five elements of social-emotional learning. The curricula begins with self-awareness and progresses through units on self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision making. All SEL elements are woven into the music so teachers can provide real-life skills while developing real musical skills.


From the music education perspective, single line exercises become duets, trios, quartets, and small ensembles, as the book progresses. The musical parts (A, B, C, D) provide for layered instruction with increasing difficulty. Students can be met and challenged at their individual level inside a group setting. Teachers can assign parts with skill sets in mind or randomly to keep it fresh and fun. As a part of this book, students explore musical styles, improvisation, conducting, arranging, and more. Parents can engage on a musical and personal level as well by seeing their child grow as a musician. Practice records are replaced with conversation starters, performance opportunities, and familial interaction.


ESUSD believes in the importance of providing approaches and resources to help bring emotional intelligence to our students, educators, and parents. In 2019, ESUSD adopted the evidence-based RULER Approach for K-12 social emotional learning created by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.


Music FUNdations coordinates well with what students have already learned through the RULER Approach. Early in the workbook, students are guided to establish a code of conduct and make decisions as a group about acceptable and unacceptable behavior. “Students have an ability to work together from a very young age,” said Davis. “In band and orchestra, full group achievement is important and precedes individual achievement.”


More information about Music FUNdations is available online:


“The Rotary Club has been very supportive of ESUSD’s music programs during the last few years and we are very appreciative of that,” said Davis. “In a challenging year, I’m thankful for a district that is making things work the best it can.”


Congratulations to all of the ESUSD teachers who received Rotary Mini Grants this year!