Finding New Ways To Teach

West Roxbury Transcript
Lindsay Crudele, Staff Writer

It was a summer of Peruvian exploration, retracing Jack Kerouac’s roads and African political theory for Boston Teachers. Many of them are just returning from trips, funded by Fund for Boston Teachers grants, that allowed teachers to take on some extraordinary extracurriculars this summer.

In the Parkway, one teacher is still in South Africa studying classroom technology, while others have returned from trips that had them studying math in Japan and child language in Germany.

One speech pathologist attended the International Child Language Conference n Berlin for a week, on a grant of $3,525.

“I met with about a thousand attendees, and people presented from all over the place,” said Cynthia Paris Jeffries, a Roslindale resident who works throughout the Boston schools.

She said the insight she gained into how bilingualism is viewed around the world helped confirm what she already thought about it, that it’s a skill that helps rather than hinders the learning process.

Paris Jeffires said that her own experience involves being bilingual with English and Spanish, but that language combinations discussed at the conference ran the gamut.

She said she learned new strategies for working with bilingual or English-as-a-second-language children with language disabilities, and that she plans to prepare a packet to distribute in the schools, as well as a PowerPoint presentation to show her monthly speech pathologist group meeting.

In any spare time, Jeffries said that she was able to tour sites such as the remains of the Berlin Wall, concentrations camps and the outskirts of Potsdam, along with her family who was able to come for the week as well.

Summer math teacher Ana Vaisenstein spent two weeks in Kyoto and Takayama studying how to use the soroban, or Japanese abacus, and its role to modern Japanese on her grant of $4,937. She said she looked to emulate firsthand the experience of being a student diving headfirst into a foreign learning environment, whether that meant coming from a new school or a new country.

Vaisenstein said that her own frame of logic was different from the Japanese way of thinking about math on the beaded tool, and it took her lots of practice to adjust her thought and master the abacus in her private instruction sessions.

“People were every excited. There was a lot of joy when people saw that a Western woman was studying the traditional way,” she said, so much so that she was presented with gifts.

In documenting the use of the abacus, Vaisenstein said she theorized that it was used more in rural areas, but after comparing Takayama to neighborhoods in Kyoto, she found that not necessarily to be the case.

“Sushi bars, grocery stores had them. The link was more about age than where they were located,” she said, seeing older people being the most devoted abacus users.

“This is an amazing opportunity for teachers,” she said, “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, to study something about that place, in that place, and get to know the city through that lens.”

Jones Selects Model Teachers

NEW YORK – Jones Apparel Group is out to make teachers look and feel their best.

Through the Jones New York in the Classroom program, a nonprofit organization supporting teachers and children’s education, the company turned up at Macy’s at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., on Saturday to give makeovers and a runway presentation for seven deserving teachers in the area. Jones’ nonprofit beneficiaries – New Teacher Academy, Fund for Teachers, Adopt-a-Classroom and TeachersCount – reached out to schools to offer teachers the chance to participate in the show.

The seven women chosen were Dorotea Binetti, a sixth-grade teacher at Essex Fells Public School in Essex Fells, N.J.; Josette D’Ambrosi, a physical education teacher at M.S. 447 the Upper Carroll School in Brooklyn; Theresa D’Ambrosi, a science teacher at P.S. 10 in Brooklyn; Erin Lubick, a science and technology teacher at P.S. 33 Chelsea Prep in Manhattan; Dory McMahon, a 12th-grade teacher at South Orange/Maplewood School District in Maplewood, N.J.; Karen Young, a pre-kindergarten teacher at P.S. 16 Cornelia F. Bradford School in Jersey City, N.J., and Jessica Zampetti, a teacher of gifted and talented students at Roy Bixby School in Bogota, N.J.

More than 100 shoppers stopped to check out the teachers decked out in the latest fashions from the Jones New York collection. The show kicked off Shop for Education Week, which runs through Oct. 22, when 10 percent of the selling price (up to a maximum of $500,000) of apparel sold from the Jones New York clothing lines – Collection, Signature, Dress, Suit and Outerwear – will be donated to Jones New York in the Classroom.

“Teachers are superstars in the classroom every day, and we made them supermodels to celebrate all that they give to our children,” said Stacy Lastrina, senior vice president of creative services at Jones Apparel Group.

The Jones New York in the Classroom program aims to improve the quality of education and inspires others to do the same. The organization supports efforts to celebrate teachers since the company believes they are the single most important factor in raising student achievement. Jones New York in the Classroom’s efforts have helped teachers who spend their own money to outfit their classrooms (a teacher currently spends an average of $1,200 a year of her own money), offer support for new teachers entering the field, and provide emotional and practical support for teachers and schools nationwide.

Newsletter – Volume 1, Fall 2005

In This Issue:
Husband, wife team volunteer in Nepal
Annual planning provides interaction, goals for 2006
Chicago teacher goes to Arctic’s edge

Read our recent newsletter, Odyssey.

 

 

Shearn Elementary Gets an Extreme Makeover

When students at HISD’s Shearn Elementary School show up for class on Thursday, September 15, they will see a different school from the one they attended just the day before.

Thanks to a huge contingent of volunteers from a number of Fortune 500 companies, within just 24 hours the school will appear squeaky-clean and next-to-new, with weed-free flower beds, freshly painted walls and curbs, and power-washed windows throughout the entire building.

The volunteers who performed these tasks (while the students attended class in a set of on-site temporary buildings) came from companies like Home Depot, Schlumberger, Starwood Hotels, and Transocean as part of the Corporate Month of Service program started by the Hands On Network. Its goal is to increase the number of employees who volunteer by 10 percent each year and encourage them to collectively contribute more than half-a-million hours nationwide during a month-long period.

The “extreme makeover” of Shearn Elementary School was one of more than 2,000 service projects slated for completion around the country in September.

“It is wonderful when people from the community come in to support a school,” said Principal Bill Buck. “The volunteers are doing an excellent job, and we have over 300 of them here doing landscaping, painting, and various other jobs around the campus. We are thrilled.”

Other partners who made the rejuvenation of Shearn Elementary School possible are: Volunteer Houston, Jones NY, the Fund for Teachers, Dillards, and UBS.

Fund for Teachers grants help teachers bring the world to the classroom

Developing global thinkers requires global-thinking teachers.

Going out into the world, bringing back and sharing experiences with Saint Paul school districts students is the goal of a unique grant program for teachers made possible by support from the Saint Paul Foundation.

This past summer, 14 Saint Paul Public Schools teachers were awarded grants, through the Fund for Teachers, ranging from $2,500-$5,000 to travel all over the planet.

Beverly Alsleben, an English as a Second Language teacher at the International Academy-LEAP School, and Rady Yang, first-grade teacher at Battle Creek Elementary, traveled to a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. Seeing the challenges Hmong refugees face in getting an education inspired Yang to remember the reasons he became a teacher. Alsleben brings back first-hand experience of the Hmong culture to incorporate into her teaching this year.

Speaking Swahili in Tanzania and living in Zanzibar (a place where many cultures have crossed) were the goals realized by Mary Dorow, an Prep teacher at World Cultures Magnet. For Washington Technology Middle School science teacher Stephanie Erickson, walking on glaciers and landing on the island nation of Iceland on the summer solstice were important experiences to bring back to share with her students.

Kimberly Colbert, an English teacher at Central Senior High School, participated in an arts literary program at Brown University.

Seeing the beaches of Omaha in Normandy and places he only dreamed about as a child was a dream come true for Peter Grebner, a physics science teacher at Como Park Senior High, who traveled to The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Thanks to money raised through the Latino Culture Club at Johnson High School where Scott Hall teaches English as a Second Language, he was able to deliver new childrens books to a bustling library in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

Meeting the Dalai Lama was one of many life-changing highlights for Pamela Hoff, an Emotional/ Behavioral Disorder teacher at Boys Totem Town, who traveled to India.

On the Atlantic coast of southern Brazil, Sarah Horns, a science teacher at Harding Senior High School, studied dolphins through Earthwatch, which pairs scientists with volunteers from around the world.

Arlington Senior High art teacher Angela Ruddy participated in a 10-day workshop on creativity in Aix-en-Provence in France, a small town whose beauty was painted by Van Gogh, Matisse and Cezanne.

Lynn Schultz, a fourth-sixth grade teacher at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet Elementary School, participated in an Explore Cubas Geography program.

Nancy Veverka, a Spanish teacher at Arlington Senior High School, studied the influence Africans had on the shaping of Brazilian history, culture and religion.

And finally, Heidi Geimer and Annette Lopez, third-grade teachers at Capitol Hill Magnet Elementary, travel to Mexico in February to study monarch butterfly migration. This will benefit their students who raise monarchs in their classrooms each fall and focus on their migration.

A Somerville-based Boston public school teacher has won a grant for summer travel to Southeast Asia in order to bolster her classroom teaching.

Christopher H. Roberts

“I want to hear the stories from Vietnamese voices to complement the stories that I know,” said Bethany Wood, who teaches American literature of the Vietnam conflict as part of her 11th grade curriculum at Another Course to College in Brighton.

Wood currently uses works by Tim O’Brien and other Americans who have been in Vietnam in her class, but she is unsatisfied with the limited scope that the American perspective allows, she said.

“Because of my own limited knowledge about Vietnam, when I present these works by American writers I present a stagnant and stale history,” she said. “The story is one dimensional, beginning and ending with the war and told only through American voices.”

“I have come to realize that I am not telling the whole story. I am not telling the Vietnamese story,” she said.

This summer Wood will tour Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in order to craft her own, first hand understanding of the region’s culture and people, she said.

Over the course of her month-long stay, Wood will visit dozens of historical and cultural sites, both to learn and to gather materials. She will go off the beaten tourist path in order to shop, dine and live where the locals do. Particularly, she will focus on works by Vietnamese authors to accentuate her course, she said.

The Vietnam experience is a difficult story to teach to current high school students, but it is vitally important to do so, Wood said.

“My students don’t have as strong feelings about the Vietnam War as they do about the first Gulf war or the current Iraq war. One can’t look beyond the fact that the Vietnam War is a major part of our history and it plays heavily on our consciousness,” she said.

Wood also wants to fulfill the needs of her own students who are of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian descent. “Their story is going untold,” she said. “I want to understand Vietnam beyond just thinking of it in context of the war.”

Wood’s journey will start in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. From there, she will take excursions to My Son and My Lai. She will travel from south to north, making stops in the Imperial City of Hue and the former Demilitarized Zone on her way to Hanoi, she said.

She will make a stop at the Truong Son National Cemetery, where 11,000 Vietnamese war dead are buried; she will also stay with a Vietnamese family in the Mekong Delta, she said.

She is particularly excited about her home stay, she said. “I especially want to see firsthand the landscape of the Mekong Delta, vividly described by so many American soldiers,” she said. “A home stay there is very important to me.”

Wood said she will be part of a tour group for part of her tour, but her trip will also include solo travel. “I am deliberately stepping out of my comfort zone and I expect to feel some disequilibrium in this new culture,” she said.

“But, I also expect the experience will challenge my thinking as a teacher and as a woman, test my own limits, and make me contemplate my life from a new direction,” she said.

She will also stay connected to her students, despite being thousands of miles away. “I’m going to create a multi-media scrapbook on the Web chronicling my trip, so that my students can follow along with me as I make my journey,” she said. “I want my students to see what it’s like, to question every stage of the trip.”

Wood said she received her grant from a Fund for Teachers/Boston, a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public Schools system. This is the second year that the partnership has awarded grants to teachers in the city’s public schools.

For summer of 2005, the project has awarded $172,500 to 47 teachers for travel in 24 foreign countries and 20 states. Fund for Teaches/Boston is administered by the Boston Plan for Excellence, and is affiliated with the national Fund for Teachers Foundation, she said.

Spruced-Up School

Jason Spencer
Houston Chronicle

The scents of progress – hot asphalt, wet paint and fresh mulch – wafted throughout southwest Houston’s Shearn Elementary School on Wednesday as an 8-hour makeover undid years of neglect.

Nearly 400 volunteers, mostly Home Depot employees, converged on the Houston Independent School District campus toting power washers, paint rollers, shovels and truckloads of equipment to spruce up the grounds. That’s roughly one volunteer for every student at the Stella Link school where almost every child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches.

It’s good to get out for a change and do some volunteering,” said Sarah Lockett, who handles purchase orders for paint and flooring materials at the Home Depot at Beltway 8 and Bellaire Boulevard. She spent much of the day pouring concrete slabs for three picnic benches in the Shearn courtyard.

HISD officials chose Shearn for the project because the school hasn’t received a significant renovation in several years.

When the workers finished, the children had a freshly resurfaced basketball court, new carpet, bookcases, landscaping and a baseball diamond. The teachers weren’t left out either. They got a refurbished lounge and new outfits from Jones New York. Every classroom now has a fresh coat of paint and new bulletin boards as part of the $50,000 effort.

“I’ve been teaching 23 years with HISD, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said teacher Beth Boggs. “We’re a smaller school, so we don’t get a lot of the perks.”

Other companies also pitched in for the makeover project coordinated by Volunteer Houston, a nonprofit group that links volunteers to the places that need them.

  • National Oilwell bought $5,000 worth of new library books.
  • Transocean spent $5,000 on building repairs.
  • Apache Corp. paid for a new baseball diamond and equipment, as well as landscaping.
  • UBS Investment Bank fixed up the basketball court.
  • Schlumberger fed all the workers. More than 100 volunteers from those companies also did the grunt work.

“It’s very hot out here, but it’s fun to do,” UBS employee Sandra Gonzalez said as she steadied a ladder beneath a basketball goal while colleague Sonya Rodriguez painted the backboard.

Inside the cafeteria, workers stood on scaffolding to paint the high walls, while others toiled in a corner near the food service line where they assembled bookshelves.

Fifth-grader Angel Martinez was among dozens of students using hammers and nails to build birdhouses, CD racks and shelves to take home.

“I’m building a shelf,” Angel said. “I’m going to hang it in my room to hang my trophies there.”

Teacher Wins Grant

DePina plans to take his own field trip to the Cape Verde Islands

By Steve Macone

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” St. Augustine said.

If that’s the case, then Stoughton resident Sam DePina has an entire summer worth of Barnes and Noble gift certificates to cash in.

DePina is one of 47 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who won a Fund For Teachers grant for summer travel and study form the Boston Plan for Excellence, a local education foundation. Now in its second year, the program has awarded $172,500 in grants for teachers to visit 24 foreign countries and more than 20 states.

DePina, who is second generation Cape Verdean and speaks the language, plans to travel to the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.

In addition to airfare and expenses, the grant will allow DePina to purchase artifacts and materials to use in the classroom.

“I love working with children. I hope by studying abroad I can make a link with something they’re interested in,” DePina said.

DePina teaches math and is the dean of students at Health Careers Academy, a small high school on the Northeastern University campus for students with an interest in healthcare professions. The school is going on its 10th year and has about 200 students.

“We were looking for candidates who tied what they were doing in the summer to what they’d do in the fall. Sam clearly does that. Many of the families of his students came from other countries,” said Mary Ann Cohen of the Boston Plan for Excellence.

DePina will explore what opportunities exist for US-trained health professionals to return to work in their home country, starting with the Cape Verde islands.

Ninety percent of the students at the school have cultural backgrounds from other countries, DePina said.

DePina will gauge the island’s future employment needs and hiring processes.

“We’re looking to build partnerships with people form overseas,” he said.

During August, he will interview doctors, visit hospitals, meet with the mayor to the capital city of Praia and public officials and gather statistics for a data analysis lesson he will teach this fall.

“I’m bringing that [information] back so we can build it into our curriculum and make it interdisciplinary,’ DePina said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is build experiential learning.”

DePina, who grew up in Dorchester, is president of the Cape Verdean Community/Uniting Neighbors In Developing Ourselves organization in Roxbury. With this group, DePina has already visited the islands.

“Last summer we took a group to play in basketball tournaments and held clinics for the younger kids,” he said.

DePina also helped found the Diamond Educators a mentoring and tutoring program. And he is on the board of directors at the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporations, which assists in getting loans for small businesses, redeveloping property and improving neighborhoods.