Voices of the Bay

Warren's Nicky Piper Wants to See Teachers Succeed in Innovation

The Bristol Warren Education Foundation helps teachers fund exciting new ideas in the classroom

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Nicky Piper experienced love at first sight when she discovered the town of Warren in 2003. A few months later she and her husband Stephen packed up from New York City to Rhode Island, eventually buying a home and settling in the town she loves in 2005.

Nicky was recently tapped to chair the Board of Directors for the Bristol Warren Education Foundation (BWEF) – the ten-year-old non-profit raises funds to award teacher grants for innovative programs for students in the Bristol Warren Regional School District, (BWRSD). The Dublin born mother of George, Millie and Charlotte has been an active volunteer with BWEF since 2011.

A graduate of University College Dublin where she received a degree in Business and Spanish, Nicky is senior manager of business operations for the Newport based non-profit National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education. It provides intensive leadership and professional development programs for talented and experienced educators from public, charter and faith based schools around the country.

A passionate supporter of 2nd Story Theatre, Nicky and her family also enjoy taking advantage of Warren’s ever-expanding restaurant scene. She can be contacted at NPiper@BWEdFoundation.org.

BWEF will be holding its biggest revenue fundraiser of the year, the 9th Annual Bodacious Bee on March 11 at Roger Williams University. To get tickets, donate funds or auction items, be a team sponsor, or volunteer, visit BWEdFoundation.org

The role of BWEF is two-fold: One piece is fulfilling grants from teachers and filling that gap between what is provided by the school and these amazing innovative ideas that teachers have and want to share. BWEF is like the experimenter. Teachers can pilot these programs through us for a year or two. If the programs are a huge success, we expect that funding to be taken over by the school district. This year alone $63,000 is being spent on 25 programs across all the schools. The other role of BWEF is being a community partner and conduit for other partnerships. It is unaffiliated with the school district, which is important, but BWEF partners with the district a lot. Everybody’s goal is to promote student excellence in the BWRSD. Currently we are bringing together Hope and Main [Warren’s culinary business incubator] and people from the district to see if there is mutually beneficial work that can be done with students.

I absolutely believe that the right to an equitable education for every student in the county is vital. Not everyone is going to have beautiful facilities, and everyone comes from a different background – language, economics, cultural – so the key to providing that “equity” comes from the teacher. This work is so close to my heart because while it is supporting the kids, the community and the district, fundamentally at the core we are supporting the teachers.

BWEF has been going through its teenage years. It’s been exciting and unpredictable, doing cool stuff and coming up with great ideas and that will never change. BWEF is now moving into the grown-up phase. The work done is so important, more than any one of our incredibly hardworking volunteers sitting around the table so we need to make sure BWEF is sustainable with practices and processes in place for perpetuity. Another major goal is being strategic and looking to see if there are other funding sources to support this work.

The money we raise from these two small towns is incredible. Last year the [Adult Spelling Bee] raised $55,000 in one night. We are keeping the ticket price the same but hope to reach $60,000 this year by way of more auction items and sponsorships. We have lots of local businesses involved and we can get more. It’s an easy ask with 450 people attending. Any business owner knows if you have strong schools you have a strong community, and your business is more likely to succeed if you have a strong community.