McFarland third grade teacher finalist for $100,000 educational grant


 A third-grade teacher from Browning Road Elementary School in McFarland is in the running for a $100,000 educational grant from Farmers Insurance. 

Valerie Perez is one of 15 finalists, the only one in California.

“As a teacher, you know, you are aware that technology changes all the time and you want the latest technology for your students just to make sure they are prepared for the 21st century,” said Perez.

Teaching for 18 years and coming from a family of educators, Perez knew to lead a creative classroom was her calling.

She’s approaching this contest with steam: science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

“She is a teacher that knows how to engage and empower her kids in a progressive way,” said Dario Diaz, principal at Browning Road Elementary.

Her students needed classroom computers and Perez’s search for grants led her to Thank America’s Teachers, the Dream Big Challenge which offers a $100,000 grant.

“And you know what, I thought ‘I can dream big and I can apply for this and I can look for a type of project that we can do and make it school-wide and community-wide,’” said Perez.

The assignment? her students are designing three-dimensional items, ultimately creating the materials with a 3D printer.

If they earn the grant, Perez plans to expand the lesson plan into virtual reality.

Students will design items, then take their 3D creations to the high school welding department, producing a sculpture that can be displayed in the city. 

“We have a largely agricultural community and students can go into that, but we’re here to show them what other options are available to them as well,” said Perez.

Using the steam platform opens the playbook for her students, exposing them to greater options for their future.

“I want our students to grow up and know they can be anything,” said Perez. “They may not be scientist, engineers, mathematicians, but I want them to understand they have the opportunities to do that and they can have the mindset and dream big just like me.”

In order to earn the $100,000 grant, Mrs. Perez needs your vote. To vote, visit

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