During Teacher Appreciation Week, the Ed Fund proudly hosted its second annual Create Joy grant showcase, celebrating the transformative impact of educators within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). In the 2023-24 school year, the Ed Fund awarded a record-breaking $197,511 in Create Joy grants, marking the highest amount granted to teachers in over a decade. This significant investment in education reflects the Ed Fund’s dedication to supporting educators and students citywide. 

Projects funded through the Create Joy grants extend beyond traditional classroom lessons, creating joyful learning environments that enrich the overall school experience. Next week, Paul Revere’s 6th through 8th graders will head to the San Francisco Circus Center where they’ll be introduced to aerial acrobatics and have the chance to “fly” 30 feet in the air. The opportunity excited and motivated students: in order to be eligible to attend, they must be on the honor roll. According to grant recipient Pamela Stein, “We were delighted to see a 30% increase in honor roll following the announcement of our special field trip for honor roll students!”  

The Create Joy Showcase provided a platform for grant recipients to share the impact of their projects, highlighting the importance of arts, outdoor education, and experiential learning in student development. With approximately 9,000 students impacted through these projects, the showcase underscored the profound influence of educators in shaping the future. See the full impact report here.  

As the evening unfolded, attendees had the opportunity to engage with grant recipients, exchange ideas, and celebrate the collective spirit of innovation and dedication within the SFUSD community. The showcase also served as a token of appreciation for educators during Teacher Appreciation Week, recognizing their tireless efforts in making a difference in students’ lives. 

The evening’s program included presentations from five teachers, each sharing the impact of their projects on students and school communities. Audience members had the opportunity to ask questions and connect with fellow educators, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. Ideas sparked – like setting up a big buddy system for high school newcomers and elementary school newcomer students within Mission District schools!  

Here are a few key takeaways and reflections from the educators who presented:  

  • Elaine Ellis, social worker at Marshall Elementary School, who organized the Unidos Todos, Somos Familia project 
  • Madison Smits, AP Literature teacher at Burton High School, who organized a professional Shakespeare play and workshop for the school’s 12th graders 
  • Bob Armstrong, 4th grade teacher at Buena Vista Horace Mann, who co-organized an experiential field trip to California Gold Country  

San Francisco Education Fund (SFEF): Can you tell us about your project?  

Bob Armstrong: A hands-on, standards-aligned learning experience that reflected student learning around the California Gold Rush and its effects on the state’s development. The project sought to add a counter-narrative to the traditional history, by inviting a native storyteller and was also intended to offer students a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave the city of San Francisco and camp in nature. 

Madison Smits: I had the “SF Shakespeare festival company” come to my school’s auditorium and perform an abridged version of “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare for all the 12th graders. Many students had never seen a show before! All my AP Literature students studied the play in class, and then completed a play workshop led by the performers. The workshop included theatrical techniques to deepen themselves in characters, and a Q+A. 

Elaine Ellis: We surveyed students and parents for significant places in our school’s neighborhood [in the Mission District]. Each classroom created a map and took a full day field trip to visit the sites. Upon returning, students created writing projects and created a book of their writing. 

SFEF: How did this project “create joy” for your students & community? 

Bob: This project offered many “firsts” for so many of our students – S’mores, an overnight camping trip, hands-on experiential learning – it created joy now and will continue to do so as students remember their unforgettable 4th grade experience camping and learning about the Gold Rush! 

Madison: Many students – and staff! – were laughing, clapping, and enjoying themselves throughout the performance. The actors brought up two student volunteers who participated in the play, and one of the students danced and it was hilarious.  

Elaine: Parents, students and staff collaborated with local organizations, agencies and businesses in fun activities where students collaborated with the wider community and each other. Students appreciated seeing each other out in the community and crossing paths for dance at ODC or lunch in In Chan Kaajal Park. The kids appreciated special treatment when they got to see behind the scenes at Mission Bowling and the Roxie’s film room. 

SFEF: What is your biggest learning moment or takeaway from this project?  

Bob: My biggest takeaway from this project is the utter necessity of community partnerships and collaboration as we move into an era with less educational funding and difficult policy decisions as a democratic society. Working with corporate and community partners to secure funding taught me the importance of advocacy and collaboration in order to secure them funds our communities deserve. Partnering with families and co-workers within our school showed these partnerships are key to achieving the herculean efforts we do every day for our students. 

Madison: My biggest takeaway was how many students who I wouldn’t consider “Shakespeare kids” enjoying the play. The jocks, the band kids, the kids who were “too cool” for the assembly, etc. were all seeming to enjoy themselves, and very few of them were on their phones.  

Elaine: We continue to reflect on ways that we can embed this into our school calendar and rhythm of the year because we believe in the power of connecting students to each other through project-based learning to deepen our shared sense of community. 


The Ed Fund extends its heartfelt gratitude to the California Retired Teachers Association, the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation, New Relic and AECOM for sponsoring dozens of grants this school year. If you want to support teachers and sponsor Create Joy grants, please reach out to development@sfedfund.org 

To learn more about the Create Joy grant, visit sfedfund.org/createjoy.  

Students at the Gold Rush experiential field trip  

Burton High School 12th graders watch a Shakespearean play  

Unidos Todos, Somos Familia field trip with Marshall Elementary Students – exploring Clarion Alley in the Mission District