Van Buren School District Education Foundation topped the $700,000 mark in grants awarded during its "Pointer Prize Patrol" Friday.

Twice each year, the foundation awards grants to teachers from Van Buren School District that have applied for money to use toward education projects in their classrooms.

To win, the projects must be innovative and tie in with current curriculum, said Debbie Thomas, executive director for the VBSD Education Foundation.

Including Friday’s awards, the schools have received 522 grants totaling $706,848.87 in the 13 years since the Foundation began.

Beth Patterson and Sandy Carney from Tate Elementary were awarded the largest grant of $3,000 for their program "‘It’s All Good!’…Pete the Cat."

Patterson, the school librarian, and Carney, a pre-kindergarten teacher, created an interactive literacy program around the Pete the Cat books that incorporates music, movement and writing.

Carney and Patterson also plan to bring Eric Litwin, the author of the books, to the school. Litwin is a performing artist who plays interactive music along with his stories.

Litwin has won a Parents Choice Award, iParenting Media Award, The Children’s Music Web Award and is the co-creator of The Learning Groove, which offers parent and child music classes, according to his website.

"He has such a great story," Carney said. "I think he’ll be a real inspiration to our kids."

Tate principal Robert Childers said he and his staff are "super grateful" to the Education Foundation.

"I’ve got to give Mrs. Carney and Patterson all the credit," Childers said. "They wanted to shake it up and do something different for literacy night."

During the 24th round of the Pointer Prize Patrol, foundation members awarded nine grants totaling $19,523.95 to staff at seven Van Buren schools.