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Williamstown Elementary School Endowment Newsletter  •  Fall 2017

Exciting News from the WESE Board!

The Williamstown Elementary School Endowment Fund (WESE) is thrilled to announce that we have committed nearly $35,000 toward programs and activities at Williamstown Elementary School (WES) for the 2017-2018 school year! Each fall, WESE puts out a call to the community for grant applications. (To learn more about WESE and our grant process, please click here.) This November, the WESE Board chose 13 new grant recipients that we felt would best serve our school this year (list below). Additionally, WESE was asked to step in for a second year to save three beloved programs that would otherwise have been cut from the WES budget: the 4th grade Shakespeare Program, Lego Robotics Club, and Math Club. We were glad to be able to divert funds intended for this year’s fall grant round to save these wonderful programs for this school year. WESE also supports the amazing WES program Words Are Wonderful with a grant each year, as well as providing subsidies to cover the cost of field trip bus services.
Since 1998, the Williamstown Elementary School Endowment Fund (an endowed fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation) has supported more than 220 initiatives and activities that enrich the educational experience for students and teachers at the Williamstown Elementary School. The fund is not a substitute for public funding of WES’s core curriculum; rather, it enables exceptional educational opportunities that take students beyond the basics. Earnings from the endowed fund support teacher and community member grants for programs, initiatives and purchases that enrich the educational experiences for students.
We are grateful to be able to steward the legacy of this important fund, and we know it makes an immense difference in the lives of all students at Williamstown Elementary. It is critical that we continue to build our endowment fund so that it maintains a strong position for the future. If you are able, please consider making a contribution to the WESE Fund as part of your year-end giving. You can make a gift online HERE or mail a check payable to BTCF with “WESE” in the memo line to BTCF, 880 N. Main Street, Sheffield, MA 01257.
We are thankful for your support. Best wishes for happy holidays and a healthy new year!

Tara Olney and Cristina Steubner
WESE Co-Chairs

WESE is a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Board of Directors
Leon Aalberts
Joe Bergeron, School Committee Representative
Joelle Brookner, Principal
James Cart
Kendra Drake
Diane Fuleihan
Kathleen Igoe, Treasurer
Rieko Hatakeyama
Elea Kaatz, Vice Principal
Mary Lovvorn
Christine McAlister
Tara Olney, Co-Chair
Cristina Stuebner, Co-Chair

Students enjoying a drumming workshop with Otha Day

2017-2018 WESE-Funded Grants: $14,200
  • Art Library: funding to start a small art library in the WES art room.
  • Empathy Awareness Mentoring Workshop: experiential workshop for grades 2, 3, and 4.
  • Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation: field trips to Sheep Hill for grades K – 4.
  • Flying Deer Nature Center: wilderness living skills enrichment program for grade 5.
  • Audio Visual Equipment: for use in the WES auditorium.
  • Drum to the Beat: drumming and science with Otha Day for the 1st Grade.
  • Cleanup for Community: cleaning materials for the 6th Grade Recess Committee.
  • Step Counters: new equipment for the physical education classes.
  • WES Library Funds: supporting library improvement.
  • Unlocking the Magic of Writing: a new online writing program for 4th grade students.
  • KidsAct!: a program by Barrington Stage Company for the 2nd grade.
  • Math and Drumming: a program by Berkshire Pulse for the 3rd grade.
  • Cartooning Club: student-led club for 3rd and 4th grades.

Other 2017-2018 WESE-Funded Programs: $21,000
  • Words Are Wonderful Visiting Author 2017
  • Lego Robotics Program for 5th and 6th grades
  • Math Club for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades
  • Shakespeare Residency for 4th grade
  • Bus subsidy for field trips for all grades


In order to continue building our endowment, WESE holds a biennial fundraising gala. Our most recent event was held in February 2017, and was a great success. With the help of our sponsors, Mountain One and Southern Vermont Medical Center, and generous donations of 106 items from community members and organizations, WESE was able to raise nearly $11,000 to contribute to our endowment fund. Thank you so much to all who supported this important event.
Please join us for the next WESE Gala in fall 2018!


WESE Funding Enrichment Programs for the 2nd Year by Principal Joelle Brookner

For a second year, WESE has funded three student programs: Math Club, Lego Robotics and the fourth grade Shakespeare & Company residency. These are enrichment programs that directly impact the lives of over 100 students annually. All three programs require children to exercise creativity and collaboration and push the boundaries of their learning about the world and themselves. Through the great commitment on the part of the board and the generosity of the endowment, WES students were once again able to participate in these amazing programs. We are continually grateful for WESE’s support.



Words Are Wonderful Author Kate Messner by Kathleen Igoe

Through a WESE grant, Words Are Wonderful funded visiting-author Kate Messner who kicked off the 20th celebration of Words are Wonderful with her presentation in the WES auditorium for the third through sixth graders on Monday, October 16th, 2017. Kate talked with WES students about the process of writing while she showed slides of drafts of one of her books with her editor’s notes and questions written in the margins. She told the story of getting rejected 26 times by literary agents before one of them said yes she would work to publish her book The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z; it went on to win the 2010 E.B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers. Kate advised the students, “You have to be persistent.” When she worked with her editor on The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, she had to write 18 drafts before it was ready to be published. “Don’t give up,” she coached the students. She showed photos of her writer’s notebooks and said that she keeps one in her backpack, one in her car, one on her desk and one in her kitchen so that she can write down ideas as soon as they pop into her head. She also spoke about the amount of research that she puts into each book before she starts to write. She showed photos of notes, newspaper articles, historic journals, and her travels to Greece, New Orleans and Iceland. She revealed the amount of work that goes into her pre-writing process.

After the presentation, Kate ran 45-minute writing workshops for each of the fourth grade classrooms. It was evident that Kate had taught middle school English for 15 years. She led the students through the steps of brainstorming for a story, and then she asked them to start writing. She encouraged the writers to continue to write and to look at their brainstorming in order to “sprinkle in the sensory details” from their pre-writing. She walked around the room asking questions to inspire the writers. She knelt down to talk with individual students. The WES students were fully engaged, and by the end of the 45 minutes, they had written great beginnings of their stories. The three fourth grade teachers agreed to finish the writing assignment over the course of the week. WES students and faculty loved Kate Messner’s visit; Kirsten Rose, children’s librarian at The David & Joyce Milne Public Library reported that Kate’s books have been checked out of the library since her visit in mid-October.

Cartooning Club by Amanda Wilcox

The WES Cartooning Club is off to a great start, thanks to WESE! Ben Lovell loves cartooning, and he knew that several of his friends do, too. So what could be more fun than making comics together? If a group of kids could get together to draw, write, and practice telling stories visually, they would be able to combine the fun and satisfaction of individual creation with the benefits of working as a group. When Ben pitched his idea to Ms. Brookner, she suggested that he write a WESE grant to fund supplies for the Cartooning Club, and he did! The WES Cartooning Club for third and fourth graders held its first meeting this week, with fifteen eager participants plying new sketchbooks and pens purchased with a WESE grant. The first comics ranged from “Piranha Plant vs. Banana” to “Rapunzel’s Bad Hair Day” to “Super Spider Girl” to “Mad Man.” The Cartooning Club is running a short session through Winter Break and will run another, longer session this spring.

Shown above, photos taken by fifth graders to inspire haiku
Shown below, the display of photos and accompanying haiku in the WES hallway

Haiku Project by Rebecca Leonard


Last spring, Williamstown Elementary School 5th graders learned about the elements of photography from their art teacher, Emily Beaulieu. They then ventured onto the school grounds to apply these elements to their own photography with the help of their classroom and art teachers and local photographer Richard Elliott. After picking their favorite photos for the project, the students wrote haiku to accompany their prints. The prints were put on display in the school lobby, after which the show moved to the Milne Public Library where it was on view for the months of September and October. Many have commented on how much they enjoyed seeing the project, and the kids were unanimously enthusiastic about how much fun they had putting it all together.

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