Kirk showcases blended learning transformation to campus donors

October 27, 2016

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Dr. Andreas Raps, CEO of EagleBurgmann, visits with Kirk Elementary School second-grade student Esmeralda Sotelo Gonzalez during a tour of the campus on Oct. 25. Kirk launched a blended learning initiative in 2016-2017 as a result of a $250,000 donation from EagleBurgmann parent company Freudenberg.

Oct. 26, 2016—When EagleBurgmann and its parent company, Freudenberg, announced their history-making $250,000 contribution to Kirk Elementary School last spring, Freudenberg Executive Counsel Hanno Wentzler knew his company was providing more than a financial gift.   

“At Freudenberg, we want our employees to be engaged. We didn’t want this to particularly be a donation project,” Wentzler said. “We want to accompany [Kirk] over a number of years. That’s why we made this commitment at least for four years. We hope this is the start of a long-term relationship.”

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Hanno Wentzler, Freudenberg Co. executive counsel, assists Kirk Elementary School second-grade student Skylar Stokes-elzy as she plots a line graph in Christine Owings’ math class.

Wentzler traveled from Freudenberg’s corporate headquarters in Munich, Germany, to visit Kirk with a team of EagleBurgmann executives on Oct. 25 to see their investment in action.

Kirk, the Adopt-a-School partner of EagleBurgmann, is using the quarter-million-dollar donation to fund a blended learning initiative at the campus. The fall semester marked Kirk’s program launch in four second- and four third-grade classrooms. The school will incorporate training for fourth-grade teachers in the spring to prepare for the fourth-grade launch in 2017-2018.  

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Kirk Elementary School Principal Onica Mayers, second from left, shows Freudenberg and EagleBurgmann executives how the school garden is being redesigned as an outdoor classroom during a blended learning tour at the school on Oct. 25.

According to Principal Onica Mayers, the donation is already making a tremendous impact on student success.

“A parent said it best at a parent meeting—her child didn’t want to be absent because he was going to be collaborating with his group today in his rotation,” Mayers said. “The kids are intrinsically motivated. Even the flexibility in seating is having an impact because the kids are reading for much longer periods of time in a comfortable setting.”

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Kirk Elementary School behavior interventionist Michele Spees gives an overview of the school’s action-based learning lab to (L-R) Paul van Wyk, EagleBurgmann vice president and CSO Americas; Dr. Andreas Raps, EagleBurgmann CEO; and Hanno Wentzler, Freudenberg Co. executive counsel, during a blended learning tour at the campus on Oct. 25.

Kirk showcased the individualized instructional atmosphere to its visitors during the blended learning tour. The team visited a “Creation Station” where students used resources such as dry erase collaboration tables and Google Expeditions virtual reality headsets; a garden that is transitioning into an outdoor classroom; a GEM grant-funded “Brain Lab” where students use movement and physical activity to increase academic performance; and classroom rotation stations with widespread technology and flexible seating spaces.

“I think the most impactful thing I have seen is this incredible level of engagement by everybody—the administration, the teachers, the students,” Wentzler said. “This school is really very different from any that I have seen. I can congratulate everybody for what you have established and are about to establish. We are fortunate and honored to be a part of [Kirk’s] journey to success.”

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Kirk Elementary School educators (L-R) Carrie Higgins, Yanine Zambrano, LaDwina Flegeance and Christine Owings share about their blended learning successes during a meeting with Freudenberg and EagleBurgmann executives on Oct. 25.

Freudenberg pledged $100,000 to Kirk for its first year in the program, plus an additional $50,000 for the next three years as more classrooms are impacted. EagleBurgmann, which adopted Kirk in 2014, invests about 18 mentors and 60 volunteers on the campus on a regular basis.

The industrial equipment supplier’s U.S. headquarters is located about 5 miles from Kirk near the Sam Houston Tollway/Highway 290 interchange.

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EagleBurgmann executives join Kirk Elementary School students in experiencing virtual reality Google Expeditions during a blended learning tour on Oct. 25.

“We want to give a little bit back of our success into the communities where we do business, where our employees live and maybe where their kids go to school,” Wentzler said. “This is why we want to be part of the communities. It’s not just about financial success; it’s also about being socially responsible. That’s a big part of who we are and what we want to be.”

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Kirk students utilize a dry erase collaboration table in the “Creation Station” room at the school, funded by a generous donation by Freudenberg.

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Kirk second-grade students Angel Perez, left, and Daniel Gutierrez share technology in a comfortable learning space funded by Freudenberg’s blended learning grant.

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Kirk Principal Onica Mayers presents Stephanie Wade, EagleBurgmann USA health, safety and environment manager, and other executives at the conclusion of their blended learning tour on Oct. 25. 

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