Traveling Teachers Maximize Their Summer Off

Johnston Grier, South End News, Boston, MA

When kids return to Boston Public Schools (BPS) this fall they’ll share stories about what they did this summer. They won’t be the only ones at school with stories of visiting far away places, learning new and exciting things. This summer, 94 Boston Public School teachers – including several from South End schools – received grants from the Boston Plan for Excellence. Between them, they will visit 24 countries and 17 states, all in the name of professional development.

Established in 1984, the Boston Plan for Excellence is a nonprofit foundation working exclusively with BPS. This year it began a partnership with the National Fund For Teachers, founded by philanthropist Raymond Plank in 1998 to provide recognition and opportunities to educators. The fund’s new Fund For Teachers/Boston, has distributed nearly $250,000 in grant money for teachers to travel and study this summer. Teachers design their own trips; the fund provides between $1,200 and $7,500 to cover expenses such as airfare and lodging.

To apply for a grant, teachers must have been in the BPS system for at least three years, intend to continue teaching, and have spent at least 50 percent of their time in direct instruction.

Keri Purple and Amelia Greiner from Newmarket’s Mason Elementary School each received $7,500 from the fund to travel to Ghana this summer. Purple has been teaching at Mason for five years; Greiner has taught Mason first-graders for three years.

Purple and Greiner have been using a unit on Ghana from the Boston Children’s Museum to teach social studies. “It’s a really good kit,” said Greiner, but “some of it had started to get a little bit outdated.”

“When we first heard about the program, it was like, right away, hey, we should go to Ghana,” said Purple.

In their application, Purple and Greiner proposed to use their trip to combine the social studies unit they already teach with two additional units they teach separately. Explained Purple, “we tried to pull in two other units that we could teach through an interdisciplinary approach to the kids. So we’ll also be…comparing/contrasting our country to Ghana. That way they also learn about our own country and our own community. And we also have a large unit in science on living things. So we are hoping to go on a safari and see the animals that are there.”

Purple and Greiner see their grant as an opportunity to provide more substantive material to their students. “I’m looking forward to having those three units put into one so that not only are they condensed but they’re more meaningful,” said Greiner.

Besides going on a safari, Purple and Greiner are planning to explore Ghana’s capital city, Accra, and view monuments, castles and other historical sites to get a feel for life in this country of over 20 million people. And while they won’t be able to visit a Ghanaian school – kids there are on vacation, too – they will meet up with some local teachers.

Sandra Garzon is also taking a trip overseas this summer courtesy of the Fund For Teachers. Garzon has worked as a BPS speech therapist for 13 years, and has been at Blackstone Elementary School since 1994. She received approximately $2,800 from the fund to travel to Barcelona.

Garzon specializes in helping students who speak Spanish as a first language who have developed a stutter. Stuttering is not an uncommon problem among young children who have a great deal of language demands. Often they will repeat words as they struggle to express themselves. “What we try to do is protect the child, their environment, and make the child understand that he has all the time to express their feelings and thoughts,” said Garzon.

In Barcelona, Garzon is visiting the Spanish Stuttering Foundation, an organization founded in 2002 to promote awareness of stuttering and develop methods for helping the stutterers and their families cope. Garzon hopes to improve her own techniques.

When Garzon heard about the grants offered by Fund For Teachers she jumped at the opportunity to apply. “It was something that I was going to do anyway,” said Garzon of her trip to Barcelona, “but I found this, and I think it is a very genuine effort by Fund For Teachers to help people who are interested in expanding their knowledge.”

Garzon will use what she has learned during her visit to the Spanish Stuttering Foundation to develop a checklist and information packet to help Boston Public School teachers identify students who are developing a stutter. “Some of the teachers, they don’t know what to do when a child stutters, how to address the feelings of the child. So with that checklist and package of information for teachers it will help me to identify kids that are at risk,” she said.

In nearby Chinatown, four Quincy Elementary School teachers received grants: Dona Cavanaugh, Heidi Thomas, Ann Whaley-Tobin and Cindy Wilson. They are attending classes at the Teaching of Reading Institute at Columbia University in New York City.

Dottie Engler, the Fund For Teachers/Boston site coordinator, sees the grants as more than just a chance for professional development. “The time is so right to just show appreciation for teachers and to say, “Hey here’s a chance, take wing, $5,000, $7,500. What are you thinking? What is it you thing you need that you can bring back to the school?”

That is really the core idea behind the Fund For Teachers program. Providing teachers with the opportunity to improve kids’ classroom experience rewards teachers’ commitment, recognizes them as an integral part of the education process, and allows them to renew themselves’ as educators.

Fund For Teachers/Boston is a pilot program. The Boston Plan for Excellence will decide in the fall whether to continue the program next year. Already, Dottie Engler is seeing the program’s positive effects. “The real interesting thing about this program is that simply its existence elevates people.”

Tai Chi in Classrooms

13 Eyewitness News
NBC News 2 Houston

Fund-Raisers Not On Vacation

Shelby Hodge
Houston Chronicle

WHILE it may seem that everyone who’s anyone is out of town this month, there are actually enough heavy hitters still on board to do some serious scoring in the charitable fund-raising department.

Steve Trauber, energy whiz for UBS Investment Bank, and Steve Farris, Apache Corp. prez and CEO, are heading up a power lunch this month for corporate honchos from the energy fields. Their goal: devising a strategy to raise $3 million to endow Fund for Teachers.

That charitable organization, which sends teachers on summer learning adventures to aid them in their work, was established by Apache founder and chairman Raymond Plank in 2001.

In celebration of Apache’s 50th anniversary as an independent exploration and production company, the local energy community is gearing up to raise big bucks. Trauber and his wife, Leticia, are chairing the endowment campaign.

The steering committee represents a who’s who of the city’s energy ranks. We’re talking CEOs, presidents and chairmen. Among them – Nabors Industries’ Tony Petrello, Anadarko’s Jim Hackett, Cooper Cameron’s Shel Erikson, Halliburton’s John Gibson and Noble Corp.’s Jim Day.

The Houston effort is just part of a nationwide $50 million campaign.

Eight Teachers In Fenway Schools Win Grants For Summer Rravel And Study

The Fenway News, Boston, MA

A dream itinerary for any traveler, that dream will come true for Farragut Elementary School teachers Barbara Casserly and Leslie McGowan, thanks to a grant from the Boston Plan For Excellence (BPE). They’ll follow in the footsteps of Isabella Stewart Gardner this summer, touring sites across Italy that she visited in collecting art for her museum in the Fenway. Along the way, the teachers will do some collecting themselves: photos, videos, sketches, interviews, and artifacts to bring the museum’s history alive for their students in the fall.

Ms. Casserly and Ms. McGowan are just two of 94 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who have won a grant to travel and study this summer. More than 300 teachers in the Boston Public Schools applied for these first-ever grants, and BPE awarded almost $250,000 to individual teachers and teams of teachers who will visit a total of 24 foreign countries and at least 17 states this summer.

Three teachers at another Fenway school, Boston Arts Academy (BAA), also won grants. Humanities teacher Sonya Brown and Spanish instructor Cara Livermore-Alba will take a two-week course, Afro-Cuban Dance and Percussion, in Mantanzas, Cuba, and then spend a third week touring and researching Cuban history and identity. What they learn will be incorporated into their instruction next fall – their newly acquired skills in dance and music, their first-hand knowledge of the Cuban culture, and the extensive primary source material they hope to collect.

BAA’s visual arts teacher Beth Balliro will head to Mexico for three weeks of research on historically significant murals in Cacaxtla, Ixmiquilpan, Mexico City, and Queretaro. Her goal is to develop a mural painting curriculum for grade 10 students, incorporate a unit on Mexican art into the school’s art history course, and brush up on her Spanish.

Lynn Burke and Rachel Skerritt, English teachers at Boston Latin School, are off to Hong Kong., Beijing, and Shanghai with a video camera. Too many of her their students, they say, have little knowledge of this area, which hinders their understanding of the works of Chinese and Chinese-American authors. They hope to create a documentary video and collect materials for their classes. Tobin K-8 teacher Ana Rosa will team with Hennigan Elementary School’s Ana Patricia Montoya to tour rain forests, wildlife reserves, and other sites in Costa Rica and develop a unit on ecosystems. The two will also visit schools to start a pen-pal exchange.

No matter their destination, these teachers will certainly bring back experiences to enrich their students in the Fenway’s schools.

Fenway Teachers Who Have Won Grants from the Boston Plan for Excellence:

Farragut Elementary School
Teacher: Barbara Casserly and Leslie McGowan
Project: Retrace Isabella Stewart Gardner’s footsteps through Italy

Tobin K-8
Teacher: Ana Rosa
Project: Study Costa Rica’s diverse tropical habitats to develop new science units

Boston Arts Academy
Teacher: Beth Balliro
Project: Visit historically significant murals in Mexico
Teacher: Sonya Brown and Cara Livermore-Alba
Project: Study folkloric dance and music in Cuba

Boston Latin School
Teacher: Lynn Burke and Rachel Skerritt
Project: Tour and create a video of Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai

13 Local Teachers Win Grants For Summer Travel, Study

Sandra Storey, Gazette Staff
Jamaica Plain, MA

Jamaica Plain public school teachers have been awarded grants for summer travel and study; it was recently announced by the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE), which gave the grants through the Fund for Teachers (FFT).

Thirteen of the 94 Boston Public Schools (BPS) teachers chosen to receive part of the $249,733 in grants live in JP. More winning teachers come from JP than from any other community.

JP resident teachers who will be able to travel and study this summer, often along with other teachers or students, and their projects, include:

Beth Balliro will visit historically significant murals in Mexico and learn of the impact of mural art.

Sabra Brown will take a course in fashion design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Lynn Burke will visit and create a video of Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

Kevin Freeley will travel to Hebel Province with the Inner-City Kids in China Program.

Kara Lysy will visit Cape Verde to learn about its culture.

Jennifer Miller will attend an international literacy conference in Havana and study Cuba’s literacy campaign.

Lucy Montgomery will travel to Kenya to research and write about the influence of Islam on Africa and China.

Ingrid Roche will take part in an Arabic language studies program in Morocco. Carla Ryder will explore the origins of the Olympics in Greece.

Paul Sedgwick will take Akonting (banjo) lessons in Gambia and create a drama unit.

Rosalba Solis, who teaches at the Hernandez, will tour Mexico to focus on ancient civilizations and take a music course there.

Kathleen Wright, a teacher at the Kennedy, will attend the Family Nature Camp at the College of the Atlantic.

Alice Yong will investigate Native American culture and other aspects of the Southeast US.

Five JP schools had teachers who were among those chosen, including the Hennigan, Hernandez, Kennedy and Young Achievers (with New Boston Pilot Middle School) elementary and K-8 schools and English High School.

More than 300 BPS teachers applied for a grant, either as individuals or as members of a teacher team, and grants range from $1,200 to $7,500.

FFT/Boston is affiliated with the national FFT foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of school-teachers and students by providing recognition and opportunities for renewal to outstanding educators.

“We all expect teachers to use their own experiences to enrich their work with students,” said BPE executive director Ellen Guiney. “There is no better way than travel to learn and grow and deepen one’s knowledge. We are thrilled to be able to offer these extraordinary opportunities for professional and personal renewal to Boston’s very hard-working teachers.”

The grants will fund projects teachers have designed themselves. Twenty-two recipients won grants for individual projects, while 72 recipients were funded for a project they designed as a teacher team. In all, the 94 grant recipients will visit a total of 24 foreign countries and at least 17 states this summer.

FFT is the brainchild of Apache Corporation Chairman Raymond Plank, who started the foundation after years of educational philanthropic endeavors. Already established in six US cities, FFT expanded to Boston this year. In Boston, the program is administered by the BPE; these are the first grants BPE has awarded.

Established in 1984, the BPE has been the district’s primary partner in improving instruction for the last eight years. Led by a volunteer board of trustees, the nonprofit organization also manages with the district an independent teacher preparation and certification program and hosts Principal For A Day each fall.

Florence County Teachers Receive Grant

Florence Mining News
Florence, WI

Florence County School District teachers Pam Smith and Monica Gatzow have been selected to receive a $6000 grant from the Fund for Teachers Organization. The Fund for Teachers (FFT) is a unique foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of teachers and students by providing recognition and opportunities for renewal to outstanding teachers. Making a difference one teacher at a time, FFT awards grants directly to teachers to support professional development opportunities of their own design. Over nine hundred teachers nationwide applied for this grant. Gatzow and Smith were two of 300 teachers that were awarded this grant.

Fund for Teachers is the brainchild of Apache Corporation Chairman Raymond Plank, who started the organization in 2001 after years of educational philanthropic endeavors in Minnesota and Colorado. In conjunction with Apache’s 50th anniversary this year, the company plans to raise $50 million for Fund for Teachers endowments across the Untied States, Apache itself has committed to providing $15 million over three years.

To be eligible for this grant, applicants must have a minimum of three years teaching experience (public, private or parochial), spend 50 percent of their time in the classroom, and be employed as a pre-K through twelfth grade teacher in an Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB) school. Florence County Middle/High School has been an ELOB school of the past three years. Applicants were required to propose a summer activity and explain how the activity would make them better teachers.

The goal of Gatzow and Smith’s grant proposal is to increase their own personal understanding of the Holocaust and the role that intolerance, ignorance and prejudice played in this tragic period in history. They will also enhance their knowledge and understanding of the Jewish religion and culture as it is practiced in the United States today. In order to gain a greater understanding of the events surrounding the Holocaust and the tragic consequences resulting from it, the two will visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C. This museum and its vast resources will provide them with a greater appreciation for the victims of hatred and intolerance and will also provide them with resources to use in potential expeditions with students involving the Holocaust and prejudice and intolerance. While in Washington, D.C., Smith and Gatzow will visit the American Red Cross National Headquarters to gather information on its response to the Nazi genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.

The pair will also travel to New York City where they will access the vast resources of the Museum of Tolerance and Simon Wiesenthal Center to gather additional information. One program they will explore is called Bridging the Gap. It offers a unique opportunity for students to interact with Holocaust survivors on a one-to-one basis through video conferencing. The goal is to personalize for students the tragedies that were caused by the Holocaust through the exchange of questions and answers with a Holocaust survivor. The message that these survivors posses in regards to the horrors of hate and intolerance takes on a greater importance as the generation of survivors dies out.

While in New York City, Smith and Gatzow will also visit Jewish communities such as Crown Heights in order to gain a greater understanding and first hand knowledge of the Jewish customs, culture and religion. Additionally, they will visit Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which chronicles the stories of immigrants, both Jewish and non-Jewish. A visit o the Anti Defamation League will provide information about contemporary anti-Semitism and the programs they offer such as the Ghetto Fighters Book Sharing Project. This project involves pairing American and Israeli middle school students together in a project to expand cultural understanding of our two countries. Students in paired schools read the same Holocaust related books and then correspond with each other via the Internet. Their goal is to learn more about the valuable human resources available through The Speaker’s Bureau of the Hidden Child Foundation, which alerts students to the consequences of bigotry, racism and persecution.

According to Smith and Gatzow, “Teaching and preaching tolerance and understanding of cultures different from our own is one thing, but living and experiencing that tolerance and understanding is vastly different. Our desire is to walk among the people in their neighborhoods, not in our textbooks, and to speak with people who know a life totally opposite to ours and a heritage nowhere near ours. We want to immerse ourselves in the recorded history and artifacts of museums, to hear the firsthand accounts of those that have suffered from the injustice and prejudice and intolerance, and learn from the experts of another culture so that we can internalize the ideals that we so want to share with our students.”

The Holocaust unit has traditionally been one of highest interest and involvement for Florence students. They explore the horrors of this period of history, but also realize the strength of human spirit through survivor stories and the resistance movement. The issue of tolerance can be applied to peoples of any color, religion, ability, age or gender. The two teachers believe that the knowledge that they gain from this experience when funneled though well-planned expeditions will not only benefit the students served, the student body and staff, but also their small community as a whole.

“He who changes one person, changes the world entire” (Norman Conrad). Gatzow and Smith plan to first educate themselves to promote a positive change and then to share their newfound information with their students so that they can change the world and make it a better place…a place free of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. They are willing to do this one student at a time.


Fellows give their perspective on the benefits of the Fund For Teachers grants.

Bryan Meadows
Catherine Davis
Lori Davis
Sharon Felty

What Boston’s Teachers Are Doing This Summer

Boston Herald

SUMMER IS A TIME TO UNWIND for students and teachers, but many of Boston’s 5,000 teachers will spend part of July and August taking courses, attending workshops, and planning for the coming school year.

Ninety-four lucky Boston teachers will travel and study this summer, thanks to grants from the Boston Plan for Excellence and its partners, the Boston Public Schools and Houston’s Fund For Teachers. The projects the winning teachers designed vary, from learning about the culture of Ghana to exploring the ecology of the Southwest. Whatever their destination, they will bring back experiences that deepen their own understanding, enrich their teaching, and benefit their students next September.

Leslie McGowan, Grade 2 Teacher, Farragut Elementary School Destination: Italy

Several times each year, teachers and students from the Farragut walk to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, just a few blocks away, where they study the artistic and cultural history of Boston and Europe.

This summer, Ms. McGowan and fellow teacher Barbara Casserly will do some walking of their own, to deepen their knowledge of the arts so they can help students make a stronger connection with the Gardner. Their project, “In the Footsteps of Isabella Stewart Gardner,” will take them to the cities and museums of Italy that inspired Mrs. Gardner to create her unique art collection and museum.

A Boston native, Ms. McGowan is especially excited about this trip because she has been going to the Gardner since she was a child. “It has always been very special to me,” she says. Her favorite spot is the East Cloister, which looks into the courtyard. “I really look forward to visiting the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice, which was the model for that courtyard,” she adds.

The teacher team will trace Mrs. Gardner’s travels through Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples. They will shoot videos, keep journals, make sketches, and collect artifacts – all of which will be used as primary source material for Farragut students and teachers.

“When a teacher has a passion for a subject, it is contagious to the students,” Ms. McGowan emphasizes. “At the Farragut, we have a passion for the Gardner, and we’ve found that using the museum as a resource helps get even hard-to-reach students interested in their learning.”

Alicia Carroll, Kindergarten Teacher, Young Achievers K-8 Destination: Kenya

In the 15th century, ambassadors from what is now East Africa took a giraffe to China on the ship of a Chinese Muslim explorer. Yes a giraffe.

This unusual fact, says Ms. Carroll, inspired her to develop a children’s book and curriculum unit, Malindi’s Story. She’s worked on the project with Lucy Montgomery, a teacher at New Boston Middle School, for two years. Berit Bowman, also from Young Achievers, just signed on.

This summer all three will travel to Kenya to see the setting first hand. They’ll learn how a giraffe might have been captured, shipped across the Indian Ocean, and cared for along the way; investigate the tools that African and Arab sailors used to guide them on their journey; and meet with scholars who study the connections between Africa and China and the influence of Islam in the time of the Silk Routes.

This is a complex topic, grants Ms. Carroll. “Focusing on the giraffe lets us take a big idea and translate it into a story that is exciting and interesting for young children.” In fact, when she first shared the story with her students, “they were so fascinated, they wanted to learn everything they could about giraffes,” she says.

The team has many goals for Malindi’s Story, including helping students understand that Africans and Asians, and their descendants, had a shared history for centuries before European influence.

Students aren’t the only ones who will benefit from this project. “Teachers have to be researchers and scholars,” she emphasizes. “Like students, we benefit from pursuing our intellectual passion. It keeps us vital.”

Ullsses Goncalves, History Teacher, Madison Park High School Destination: Cape Verde Islands

Although many Madison Park students are of Cape Verdean descent, their history books rarely mention those West African islands. Mr. Goncalves will soon begin to fill the gaps, when he travels to Cape Verde this summer to research its role as a center for the Portuguese slave trade.

What is now Cape Verde was uninhabited when the Portuguese settled there around 1460, says Mr. Goncalves, and the islands eventually became holding places for captives from Africa until they were traded to slave owners in the Americas and the Caribbean.

One of his prime destinations is Cidade Velha, an ancient city and fortress on Santiago Island. Its many ruins, which Cape Verdean officials are hoping to preserve, date back to the 17th century.

“I plan to meet with government officials,” says Mr. Goncalves, “and encourage them to move forward with the preservation.”

That’s important for two reasons, he argues: a restored Cidade Velha would not only illuminate the history of slavery but also dramatize changes and improvements in the Cape Verde islands over time.

“I also hope to share with them my perspective as a history teacher with students of Cape Verdean descent,” he adds.

Mr. Goncalves will meet also with Daniel Pereira, Cape Verdean historian and expert on slavery. Additionally, he’ll do research at the national library, shoot video, and gather artifacts to share with students this fall.

In short, he wants nothing less than “to make history come alive” for himself and all his students.