After our 2020 grant recipients’ plans stalled due to the global pandemic, our organization faced an interesting situation. No Fellows pursing learning beyond the classroom or applying their experiences inside them. And we didn’t know if 2021 grants would even happen. Entering our twentieth year of supporting teachers, what did that look like when teachers couldn’t leave their homes or hometowns?
Fund for Teachers created a new grant that provides the space for teachers to support each other. Beginning in May, select FFT Fellows will meet virtually in Innovation Circles focused on four topics: Social-Emotional Learning, Equity, Art & Design, and Accessibility. A summer of pursuing individual experiences with a $1,000 grant will be bookended with community building, brainstorming, reflection and application — together with and led by the following Fellows:
2009 Fellow Beth Mowry (Brooklyn) will co-lead this Innovation Circle alongside 2021 Fellow Megan McCall (Daphne, AL). “I recognize and honor the power inherent in being able to guide a learner to deeper understanding through experiences, a well-timed question or a probing reflection question,” said Beth. “This Circle structure is designed to give learners the Goldilocks amount of support and structure that will lead to incredible innovation.
2003 Fellow Mekiva Callahan (Houston) is not only a FFT grant recipient, but also a college professor and administrator. In a variety of classrooms, she’s witnessed the impact a “decentralized” classroom can make. “My classrooms are more participant centered, and that’s what excites me about this format,” she said. “The Circle Structure removes the burden from me to carry the cognitive load shifting to participant centered work. This pedagogical style is ideal, even for a classroom setting, as we will co-construct the learning and reform the curriculum together. We will learn from one another, and that is the most exciting part–what we all take away from the experience.”
Mekiva will co-lead with 2018 Fellow Josh Frost (Brooklyn). “It will be an invaluable learning experience to be able to discuss and help develop projects rooted in these same themes with educators/Fellows outside of New York that teach in diverse communities from around the country,” he said.
Art & Design
2019 Fellow Mia Corvino (Madison, CT) and 2015 Fellow Adam Burns (Troy, MI) brings experience from teaching at Columbia Teachers College and Adam from participating in our Innovation Circle pilot program last fall. “What I really liked was being exposed to so many different ideas. I could try them out, tinker, adapt, ignore, whatever,” he said. “What I love about the circles is they capture that idea of always questioning why you are doing what you are doing, of knowing that things don’t always have to be the way they are.” Mia added, “I am always happiest when I can be a facilitator rather than a lecturer, guiding and helping others to build and brainstorm, to be more creative and think outside the box, and to reflect back to the group what I am hearing and seeing so that they can reach their own conclusions.”
2013 April Chamberlain (Trussville, AL) is stepping up to this cohort. “The community aspect is key for me as I have had the opportunity to be a part of communities that I have taught me, challenged me, and supported my growth,” April said. “I wish to facilitate this experience for others and “coach” rather that lead the educators in the design and implementation of their learning plans.”
“Seeing teachers’ response to this opportunity for collaboration with other Fellows has been so encouraging,” said Liza Eaton, director of Fund for Teachers’ Ramsden Project, a new initiative focused on grant recipients post-fellowship. “Synergizing teachers’ collective years of experience and passion for a topic will result in authentic engagement for all of their students.”
Check back on April 30 for the names of FFT Fellows awarded $1,000 grants to participate in our first season of Innovation Circles.