About Us

Our Vision

We believe that introducing children to the spectrum of available technology creates opportunities for exploration, problem-solving and inspired uses of imagination. ITEF empowers educators to consider the kinds of innovative learning projects that enable these opportunities.

Our Mission

With a keen eye on underserved schools and communities, the Innovative Technology Education Fund seeks to accelerate learning in K-12 spaces through the innovative uses of technology.

Our Non-Profit

ITEF is a St. Louis, Missouri based, charitable, nonprofit, private 501 (c)(3) foundation that supports innovation in education by funding advanced technology in the classrooms of public, private, parochial and charter schools in the greater St. Louis area. In addition, we provide opportunities for educators to continue to grow and learn in their field. Our work is supported through the FCC license we hold for four Educational Broadband channels in St. Louis, Missouri.

To us, innovation is about positive change, supporting novel approaches that suit the educational environment, having the vision to see things differently and, most of all, using that vision to change instructional practices for the benefit of students and educators alike.

Our History

ITEF began in 1986 as the Humanities Instructional Television Educational Center (HITEC). We originally filed Articles of Incorporation for a General Not-for-Profit Missouri Corporation, “to obtain authority (from the FCC) to own and operate closed circuit television channels in order to provide instructional and educational programs.”

This was a response to the boom in cable TV programming. More than just entertainment, cable TV was now offering a rich array of high-quality educational content. It just needed a way to reach students at learnacademy.org. One inspired solution was the creation of Instructional Television Fixed Service, a band of television channels licensed to colleges, universities and not-for profit-organizations such as HITEC.

HITEC’s transmitter was located on the KETC Channel 9 tower at Butler Hill. Offerings included The Learning Channel, Discovery EWTN, CSPAN, Inspiration Network and an arts channel. Educational facilities could now receive programming via state-of-the-art microwave dishes from their rooftops. Since the equipment was costly, HITEC offset the cost. Classrooms were enriched with content they otherwise would not receive.

And then came the Internet boom. By the 1990’s, the public was immersed in technology at an unprecedented rate. Home computing was easier than ever, laptops, smart boards, and web-based content were all becoming readily available. The students entering school were exposed at an early age to the benefits of technology—they were true digital natives. Savvy educators were demanding better access to this technology for their students who were growing up hand-in-hand with technology.

So as technology changed, so did we. In 2006, HITEC announced a new name and a new mission. New articles of incorporation approved by the State of Missouri changing the name from HITEC to the Innovative Technology Education Fund: ITEF. Our new mission was to advance the creative use of technology to provide excellence in education. Far from our humble cable TV roots, the new ITEF grew to accommodate technology’s many faces: music, video, robotics, and the arts.

Educators sprang to discover ways technology could be brought into the classroom. They saw how innovative technology promoted creativity and critical thinking. From hands-on computing to innovative software, they sought ITEF grants to cover an ever-growing spectrum of technological opportunities.

Since then, ITEF has given $3,753,163.17 to area schools for enhanced learning through the use of technology. Each year, ITEF awards grants and actively seeks collaborative partnerships with innovative educators throughout the region.

Today, we welcome the chance to equip educators as they prepare students for a digital world. We achieve this mission by offering grant funding and by expanding professional opportunities for educators. ITEF is proud to share the knowledge, the passion and the funding to positively impact education and its effects on our community.

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Statement
ITEF recognizes that institutional racism and other forms of oppression have adversely impacted educational opportunities for students of diverse races, ethnicities, nationalities, abilities, classes, genders, sexual orientations, and other marginalized groups.
Therefore, ITEF is committed to supporting innovative projects that ensure accessibility to all students and educators and invite passion and purposeful learning.

Our Staff

Charmaine Smith

Chief Executive Officer

Read Charmaine's Bio

“We approach our work with the belief that our process can not be static. We are constantly learning and invite our innovators into that space to learn with us.”

Charmaine Smith moved to Saint Louis in 1987 from Wichita, Kansas to open a satellite office for the International Association of Machinists Center for Administering Rehabilitation and Employment Services (IAM CARES), a National social service agency.  In 2003, she left IAM CARES to start Discovering Options, a local non-profit dedicated to delivering high quality after school programs to at-risk children. Charmaine joined ITEF in 2014. Charmaine believes, “We have an obligation to all children to provide them the access to the tools they will need to use in order to bring innovation to the way we work, play, learn and are transported in the future.”

Currently Charmaine serves on the board of NEBSA, the National Educational Broadband Service Association. She joined Innovative Technology Education Fund on July 7, 2014 and is looking forward to advancing innovation in technology by funding school-based projects in the Greater Saint Louis Metropolitan area.

Jenny Birgé

Foundation Administrator

Read Jenny's Bio

“There is no substitute for an empathetic educator who sees each student individually.  ITEF funding supports educators so they bring compassion, curiosity and an open mind towards innovation into the classroom daily.” 

Jenny Birgé is a native St. Louisan who had a Research & Development career in the food industry, before returning back home in 2018.  Jenny combines her strategic corporate experience with deep knowledge of nonprofits as the ITEF foundation administrator. She was a board member of the Plano, Texas Education Foundation and School Health Advisory Council, supporting a district of 54,000 students. Jenny brings her passion for education excellence to ITEF and those served by the foundation. 

Jenny teaches at the Brown School at Washington University, linking human-centered design thinking to teams, group culture and leadership.  She is active in racial justice organizations and continually seeks to learn and contribute to making St Louis a more equitable community for all citizens. 

Impacting Equity through Grant Making