13 Nov 2017

TRTF Making a Difference: Matt Stricklen

Matt Stricklen has been teaching at Akins High School in Austin, Texas for three years. His newest project is the most ambitious any of his students have undertaken, and it’s an opportunity for the students to learn about the power of ingenuity and collaboration.

Stricklen is teaching his students to build an augmented reality sandbox. The project may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it instead refers to a teaching tool students are using to learn about topography, the study of the shape and features on the surface of the Earth.

Stricklen’s sandbox works as such: a topographic map is projected onto a box full of sand, and the shapes and colors change as students move the sand within the box. The changing colors and shapes represents the elevation of the sand relative to the map’s projected surface.

In order to pursue the project, Stricklen required additional funds to purchase the projector and a graphics card to display the topography. He received a $500 Classroom Assistance Grant from the Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF).

“The grant money served as the seed money for the project,” Stricklen said. “It really gave me the confidence that we could bring it to fruition.”

Stricklen’s class completed the project just in time to present it at the University of Texas’ science fair, “Hot Science, Cool Takes,” on April 28, 2017. After setting up, a crowd started to form around the sandbox, and the students turned the lights off to see the augmented reality system working as intended.

“Sometimes the kids were skeptical that we could pull it off,” Stricklen said. “It’s been interesting to see their skepticism give way to a real belief that they can get it done.”

Stricklen believes that the project will be an excellent showcase for students’ college applications.

“It’s fairly rare that students will get to show off work of this magnitude,” he said.

Show your support for public education projects like Stricklen’s by donating to TRTF today! You can donate here. Learn more about classroom assistance grants and other TRTF charitable programs here.

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08 Nov 2017

November 9 Set as TRS-Care Auto Enrollment Date by TRS

According to the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS), TRS-Care plan participants who do not terminate their TRS-Care coverage by November 9 will be auto-enrolled into the new Humana and SilverScript (CVS) health care plan. November 9 is the cutoff date for the enrollment file TRS will submit to Humana, SilverScript (CVS) and the federal agency known as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

Some members of TRTA have expressed confusion about the meaning of the November 9 deadline. To be clear, TRS-Care participants are eligible to leave TRS-Care at any time*. However, if a participant has not notified TRS of their intent to terminate TRS-Care coverage by November 9, they will receive a TRS-Care Medicare Advantage and Part D ID card in the mail.

If a participant finds that they have been enrolled into TRS-Care Medicare Advantage and Part D and wishes to leave the program, the participant should contact TRS. The participant should also contact TRS if they have already purchased another policy for themselves or their spouse. To reach TRS-Care, please call 1-888-237-6762.

If the participant is a retiree and wishes to terminate TRS-Care coverage, they will need to request a specific form (700B), which must be customized and mailed to the participant from TRS-Care. To cancel TRS-Care by January 1, 2018, the form must be notarized and mailed back to TRS-Care. While the language on the form references a 14-day period, TRS will honor the termination date on the form as long as it is received before the termination date.

Form language: Termination will be effective [fill in blank] if my completed form is received by TRS-Care within 14 days of the date printed on this form. If not received within this 14-day period, termination will become effective on the first day of the month after it is received.

If the participant is terminating TRS-Care coverage for a spouse or dependent, they should send a signed letter to TRS clearly identifying whose coverage should be terminated and the date by which the coverage should be terminated. Retirees will not need a notarized form to terminate coverage for a spouse or dependent.

*Under CMS rules, if a Medicare-eligible retiree decides to leave TRS-Care, the retiree has 63 days starting from January 1, 2018 to select a Medicare product from the individual marketplace with guaranteed issue status. It is important to note that if a participant leaves TRS-Care after the 63-day guaranteed issue period, they may encounter underwriting in the individual Medicare market.

Learn more about the upcoming changes to TRS-Care by reading the TRS-Care FAQ.

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The Inside Line is a free service of TRTA, provided to you to keep you informed on current issues and events that impact your life.  If you value this service, please consider becoming a member of TRTA by clicking here. If you are already a member, thank you!

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06 Nov 2017

Welcome to Foundation Month 2017

The Texas Retired Teachers Foundation (TRTF) is the charitable arm of the Texas Retired Teachers Association (TRTA). TRTF is responsible for providing grants and assistance to active and retired educators. November is the month that TRTF hosts its donation drive known as Foundation Month.

Foundation Month is a time to celebrate the charitable works TRTF has provided to educators throughout the year, and look forward to another year of selfless giving and life-changing work.

TRTF has three primary charitable programs: Classroom Assistance Grants, A Helping Hand and Beginning Teacher Scholarships. Each of these programs is set to expand and improve in the coming year.

TRTF will provide 15 Beginning Teacher Scholarships in 2018, and each of these scholarships will be worth $750. These scholarships aim to help new, first-time teachers with certification tests and classroom supplies. Interested parties may download the application here.

TRTF is doubling the number of Classroom Assistance Grants next year, bringing the total number of grants given to 30. Each Classroom Assistance Grant is worth $500. These grants are provided to active teachers seeking to improve their classrooms. Interested parties may download the application here.

The application deadline for the Beginning Teacher Scholarships and Classroom Assistance Grants is March 15, 2018.

The “A Helping Hand” program is set to disburse $17,500 in 2018 to retired educators in need. Since the program’s 2010 inception, “A Helping Hand” has given more than $110,000 to 107 retired educators.

2017 has been a particularly difficult year for many educators, as the Texas coast was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. TRTF brought educators together to raise more than $130,000 for victims of the hurricane through its Disaster Relief program. So far, TRTF has helped more than 450 educators with $250 short-term grants and long-term grants in amounts up to $1,000.

Show your support for public education by donating to TRTF. As TRTF continues to expand its programs, it promises to help many more people. You can donate to TRTF here.

Thank You

Thank you for donating to TRTF! Your contributions truly help change lives!

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