EL CERRITO -- The ripples of a $10,000 grant won this week by a kindergarten teacher in a national competition will be felt as close as the waters of neighboring Baxter Creek and as far as a school in Ghana.
But on Thursday, all the ripples were contained in the auditorium at Prospect Sierra School, where representatives of the third annual Great American Teachoff gave Madeleine Rogin an oversize novelty check at a surprise presentation during a school assembly.
"I was totally surprised. I can't believe it," Rogin said after the presentation. "Every morning, my heart was pounding out of my chest because I felt like I wasn't going to make it."
The Peaceful Changemakers Curriculum that Rogin and her kindergarten team developed for the private school was among 500 entries nationwide for the K-6 grant sponsored by online social platform GOOD (www.good.is) and the University of Phoenix. A second category offers $10,000 for the classroom of a seventh- through 12th-grade teacher.
Rogin, who turns 39 Saturday, has been teaching at Prospect Sierra for six years, five in kindergarten.
Rogin's entry, which envisions students as "changemakers," would use the grant on both a local and global level. Locally, it will help students learn environmental stewardship by restoring a frog habitat at a portion of Baxter Creek near the school.
The global component is a partnership with an elementary school in Ghana, West Africa, that Rogin and her family volunteered with last year "to help with school supplies and basic equipment for their school as well as build cross-cultural exchange and cross-cultural communication," she said.
Entries were chosen based on innovation, creativity and impact on the community, said Liz Dwyer, education editor for GOOD.
The idea of equipping students to learn about other cultures and people different -- yet similar in many ways -- from themselves was the kind of innovative thinking that attracted contest officials to Rogin's entry.
"The purpose of learning at a really young age is not test scores, it's learning how to get along with people, and that's the way we need to go to prepare students for the global economy," Dwyer said.
The K-6 entries were narrowed to eight finalists that were put up for a weekly online voting, with the field narrowed by two each week to a final round of two.
Rogin, who has been "on pins and needles" since the close of voting Sunday night, said she first plans to celebrate and send out lots of thank you cards. Then it will be down to business as she meets with her kindergarten team, notifies her counterparts in Ghana of the good news and reaches out to the Friends of Baxter Creek group.