By Travis Sloat
Amber Lobaugh said when she needed money to purchase books for her new Art History class that were Advanced Placement approved, she turned to her secret weapon.
“This might sound kind of bad, but I searched Google for ‘educational grants’,” Lobaugh said. “I found the ING Unsung Heroes grant, and very quickly applied because the deadline was coming up. I literally raced to the post office to get it postmarked in time. After that, it was just a matter of waiting.”
The process was started in response to the possibility that the Humanities teacher at Fort Gibson High School might be retiring soon. Principal Gary Sparks approached Lobaugh about finding a replacement class for when that happened.
The rest, they say, is history.
Lobaugh, who has been teaching Art at Fort Gibson for 5 years, said she got the acceptance letter over the summer, and that she could barely contain her excitement when it happened.
“I think that I opened it by myself,” Lobaugh said, “and I’m pretty sure I screamed. When my husband got home, I told him about it, and then I put it on Facebook and told everyone else. It was so exciting.”
According to the website, ING Unsung Heroes began in 1995 as a way for ING to demonstrate its commitment to the education community. Grants are given to K-12 educators utilizing new teaching methods and techniques that improve learning.
The grant is for $2,000, with the opportunity to win an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 for first, second, and third place. ING has raised over $4 million this year alone to assist educators suffering from devastating budget cuts.
Sparks said he encourages all the teachers at Fort Gibson High School to seek out grants, and any time a teacher takes the initiative, it helps even more.
“Her grant is the first of this year, but hopefully it’s a long list,” Sparks said. “Applying for grants is something that takes time and work, but it pays off.”
Paul Smith, an ex-NFL player and representative from ING, came down from Tulsa to award Lobaugh in front of the seniors. They gave their hearty applause to Smith’s words as he congratulated Lobaugh.
“I’m the son of high school educators,” Smith said. “I get to be a special part of things like this for people like my mom and dad who are trying to make your lives better. On behalf of ING and Unsung Heroes, I’m presenting a check for $2,000 to Mrs. Lobaugh.”
In addition to the excitement of the administration and faculty, the students, especially those who are art aficionados, were excited about the grant as well.
Shelby Palmer, a senior and National Honor Society member, said Lobaugh had talked about the class with her before applying for the grant, and that the award was “really awesome.”
“I’m so proud that she went out and got this,” Palmer said. “I’m excited to take the class. She is really an awesome teacher.”
Lobaugh, who still seemed in awe of being the recipient of the grant, said this award boosted her confidence both professionally and personally.
“This is the first grant I’ve ever applied for,” Lobaugh said. “I didn’t expect to get it. It was kind of a challenge, but a good one.”