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Watch the Webinar: Utilizing ESSER Funding to Implement PBL + STEM Initiatives (November 15, 2022)

Written by Bill Laurienti

Watch the ESSER Funding Webinar Today!

What are the most effective and impactful ways to spend ESSER Funding? What decision-making processes are educators following? How is ESSER being utilized to implement PBL + STEM programs? In this session, attendees will hear from a panel of educational peers on their processes and strategies for accessing and utilizing ESSER funding for their schools and districts, including:

  • What were the districts’ objectives and decision-making processes?
  • Who were the stakeholders and how were they engaged?
  • How was ESSER funding aligned with key PBL + STEM initiatives?
  • What were the challenges?
  • What is the expected student impact?

Watch the ESSER Funding Webinar!

Download the NEW ESSER Funding Guide!

About the Presenters

Kevin Walters

Kevin Walters joined the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in 2015, after spending 25 years as an educator in Michigan. He supervises the Grants, Contracts, and School Support Unit at the MDE, where duties include state/federal grant funding acquisition and management. During his time as an educator, Kevin gained valuable experience as a teacher, elementary/high school principal, and school superintendent.

Mark Whelton

Mark Whelton is Superintendent of Bridgeport-Spaulding Community School District in Bridgeport, Michigan. Mark is a fifth-year superintendent and leader of a dynamic group of educators. He is a sports enthusiast who lives a vision of “No Barriers, Just Possibilities,” which requires a student’s first focus and an understanding that you can lead a horse to water. Still, you can’t make it drink UNLESS you add salt to its food. So, what is your salt?

Mark holds degrees from Central Michigan University, Marygrove College, and the University of Michigan. Over the past 21 years, he has been a teacher, principal, intervention specialist, data and PLC coach at The Institute for Excellence in Education, and an integral part of the Financial Independence Team at the Michigan Department of Education.

Marilyn Powell-Barnes

Marilyn Powell-Barnes is the director of Curriculum and Assessment at Lincoln Elementary School District 156 in Calumet City, Illinois. Marilyn holds degrees from Eastern Illinois University and Governors State University. She began as a teacher in her hometown of Ford Heights, IL and over the past 28 years, she has held positions as a teacher to at-risk youth at Medgar Evers Primary Academic Center, an Assistant Principal and then Principal at Medgar Evers PAC, and a Director of Curriculum and Assessment at Lincoln Elementary.

When Marilyn is not doing the important work of educating and mentoring young people, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Marilyn has been the proud wife of Daron Barnes for the last 26 years, and mother to Imani Barnes who is in her senior year at DePaul University. Marilyn’s greatest hope is that she will be able to leave behind a legacy that will inspire others.

Creative Learning Systems 

Creative Learning Systems®, education pioneer and developer of SmartLab® Learning, has been transforming traditional learning environments into project-based learning experiences since 1987. Innovative school leaders nationwide empower learners with SmartLab Learning’s state-of-the-art STEM-focused solutions that include problem-solving; authentic, student-led experiences; standards-aligned supplemental curriculum; and rigorous professional development. Our mission is to ensure that today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders, prepared and ready to solve the complex challenges of our ever-changing world.

For all media inquiries, please email

Bill Laurienti

Bill Laurienti is a Content Marketing Specialist at Creative Learning Systems. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education (English) from Colorado Mesa University and a Master of Arts in Secondary Teaching from the University of California's Rossier School of Education. Bill came to CLS after 10 years in the secondary classroom. He believes SmartLabs are important tools for engaging unengaged students and helping them access careers they might not otherwise have imagined.

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