A World of Knowledge

Fund helps teachers learn lessons about other cultures

Rich Fahey
The Atlanta Educator

The Atlanta Education Fund and a nationally-known non-profit group that supports teachers have joined forces to help 18 APS teachersí dreams come true… and students will benefit as well.

This summer, those 18 teachers who have received Fund for Teachers fellowships worth $77,114 will embark on adventures such as helping to conserve and expand the population of Giant Pandas in China or assisting teachers and students in Ghana in harvesting bio diesel fuel from household resources, while offering English instruction.

The Fund for Teachers is a non- profit group that helps teachers pursue self designed programs that promote summer learning and exploration. Teachers submit proposals detailing how their fellowship will make them better teachers and how their improved skills will be implemented in the classroom. Teachers are awarded grants based on merit.

To date, more than 4,000 teachers from across the United States have received more than $12 million in grants to study and travel in 110 countries on all seven continents. In 2008, the Atlanta Education Fund became the Fund for Teachers’ newest community partner. The AEF’s mission is to galvanize community support to accelerate and sustain student achievement in Atlanta Public Schools.

ìI am excited about this partnership between the Atlanta Education Fund and Fund for Teachers,” said Hosanna Johnson, AEF President. “In all oftheworkwedoto support the district, the quality of Atlanta’s schools is only as good as the quality of the teachers. We are happy to be part of a program that gives back to those who most deserve it.”

Last summer, Michell Carter of Sarah Smith Elementary School volunteered with the Earthwatch Institute,
assessing the endangered hawksbill turtles on a remote island off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. In the evenings she collected vast amounts of plastic products that washed up on the once pristine shoreline.

When she returned to Atlanta, Carter documented the amount of trash each student produced, and led the effort to reduce the amount of plastic waste by up to 60 percent in some classrooms.

Last summer, through the Atlanta Fund for Teachers, Gideons Elementary teacher Darlene Dobbs explored the discoveries of ancient Egyptians in the areas of science, math and linguistics.

Sarah Smith Elementary teacher Michell Carter assisted scientists in gathering data on the hawksbill turtles, an endangered species, in the Great Barrier Reef last summer.

Here are the 2009 Atlanta Fund for Teachers Fellows, their schools and what each will be doing this summer.

Sam Bean, Langston Longley
Stanton D. H. Elementary
Travel to Japan to observe and learn various techniques for teaching critical thinking math skills.

Terri Dunson
Rivers Elementary
Volunteer with the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China, focusing on wildlife conservation and scientific research.

Sabrina Harris
Bolton Academy
Live with a family in Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica, taking daily Spanish classes through the Study Abroad, Inc., program.

Charon Kirkland, Woodson Elementary, and Lorrae Walker, Scott Elementary
Attend a tropical ecology and conservation workshop on the island Dominica through the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to identify better strategies for teaching ecology in the classroom.

Angela Nelson
Garden Hills Elementary
Observe teaching strategies and cultural differences in Jordan and Egypt as related to ESL students.

Xylecia Taylor
Williams Elementary
Assist teachers and students in Ghana to harvest biodiesel fuel from house- hold resources while offering English instruction.

Traci West
Bolton Academy
Study Hispanic culture through the Equinox Spanish School in Ecuador to develop and enhance teaching and learning skills.

Reosha Bush and Tiedra Hutchings
Crim Open Campus High School
Study the English perspective of American colonist James Oglethorpe by exploring early colonial England, and research information on the founding of Georgia.

Sydney Butler
Crim Open Campus High School
Attend an international special education conference in Spain to acquire knowledge about the practic of special education in other countries.

Reginald Colbert, North Atlanta High School, and Nat Colbert, Sutton Middle School
Participate in the Verbier Festival Academy in Verbier, Switzerland, to observe and research strategies used in master classes and chamber music coaching.

Amy Leonard
Grady High School
Explore life, death and entertainment in ancient Rome through a tour of archaeological sites in southern Italy.

Neville McFarlane
Jackson High School
Attend a photovoltaic design & installation workshop at Solar Energy International in Colorado, to promote renewable energy in schools.

Beverly Easterling
Kennedy Middle School
Study racial reconciliation and restorative justice in South Africa to develop a more positive climate in the school setting and community.

Breverly Littles
Young Middle School
Benefit from an immersion program in Spain to enhance language skills, improve knowledge of the country and research African influences on Spanish culture.

My Summer Vacation

A nonprofit organization allows teachers to bring the world back to their classrooms.

Roy Deering
Oklahoma Magazine

Mary Kathryn Moeller is an Oklahoman who considers London her “spiritual home.” After visiting the city full of history years ago, she vowed to someday return. This summer, thanks to the Fund for Teachers program and the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, she’ll have her chance.

Moeller is one of dozens of Oklahoma teachers taking exotic Fund for Teachers trips this summer, spending four weeks in London attending the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. For Moeller, it’s a chance to revisit her favorite city in the world.

“I am thrilled to be going back,” says the AP art history teacher at Jenks High School.

Fund for Teachers is a nonprofit group that funds summer sabbaticals for thousands of teachers across the country every year. The program is set up to enrich the personal and professional growth of teachers by recogniz- ing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their prac- tice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.

Jenks art history teacher Mary Kathryn Moeller will visit London this summer thanks to the nonprofit group Fund for Teachers.

“I never realized my inner passion for art and art history until I started teaching the class three years ago,” Moeller says. “Now, I have this burning desire to learn more, to experi- ence it and to teach it to the best of my ability. This trip gives me the chance to do all of that.”

During her month-long stay at the Sothe- by’s Institute, Moeller will study contempo- rary art at one of the premier facilities in the world. Taking part in the Sotheby’s Institute will provide her with knowledge that cannot be learned anywhere else in the world, allow- ing her to better pass along this knowledge and passion to her students back in Jenks.

Audrey Nelson, French and Spanish teacher at Shawnee High School, is also liv- ing her dream through the Fund for Teachers program. Nelson, along with good friend and fellow teacher Kim Earle of Ada, will travel on horseback across the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain during their two- week excursion.

“I’m still pinching myself because it doesn’t seem possible,” Nelson says. “It’s like a fantasy that I’ve dreamed about and it’s really hard to believe it’s actually going to take place.”

Nelson and Earle will arrive in France in early June, spend two days in Paris and take a train to Bayonne where they will begin their week-long journey through the mountains. Riding five to seven hours per day, their tour group will cover hundreds of miles through some of the most incredible scenery on earth, following a pilgrimage route that has been used for thousands of years.

“This is the route that so many people throughout history have taken,” Nelson says. “This trip will not only allow us to see and experience the landscapes of this incredible region, but will help us to become engulfed in the culture and the language and allow us to be much more capable of teaching these cultures to our students when we return to Oklahoma.”

Los Angeles Teacher Transforms Summer Experience into Student Film Festival

Twentieth Century Fox Film Studios provides “red carpet” setting for film screening

LOS ANGELES – June 9, 2009 – Star Wars. Titanic. These conjure images of Hollywood and Twentieth Century Fox. Now add high school students’ film screenings to the list. The difference is, these budding producers from Dorsey High School are about to be discovered.

On June 4, 2009, 17 student filmmakers attended the Dorsey High School Film Fest 4 “red carpet event,” sponsored by the Fox STAR Mentoring Program, at Twentieth Century Fox’s Little Theatre to debut their films, commercials, music videos, PSAs, narratives and documentaries – all the result of film teacher Robert Jeffers’ year-long film production and editing class. Jeffers’ film class is part of the partnership between Dorsey High School and Fox STAR Mentoring, which has been in existence since 1995. Fox executives, film organizations, teachers, parents and the student filmmakers enjoyed the screening of 10 films and received encouragement from Fox STAR Mentoring Program Director Deborah Bryant, Jeffers, and Dorsey High School film program alumni Alma Alegria and Devindra Somadhi, Jr. The evening’s finale saw David Sosa win Best Overall/Best Direction and Christopher Simmons win Best Editing, which were determined by five creative executives from Fox who served as jurors. Both received a $1,000 college scholarship each from Twentieth Century Fox.

“Film is an amazing medium where art, literature, critical thinking, planning, and team work intersect,” remarked Jeffers. “Showcasing the students’ work on the Fox lot validates a year’s worth of effort and instilled in students a sense of pride in accomplishment. The Fox screening took work out of the classroom context and placed it directly into the film community, connecting what started as an assignment with the ‘real’ world. The significance of this event cannot be overstated, especially for the students and their families.”

The Fox red carpet opening has been a goal Bryant and Jeffers hoped to realize since the first campus festival screened four years ago. The support of Fox has enabled Jeffers to enrich the filmmaking experience for his students through studio production tours, material support, mentorship, and scholarship donation.

Fund for Teachers can now be counted among the donors of the program. A film teacher for five years, Jeffers sought deeper expertise in interviewing, filming and editing skills, so he applied for a Fund for Teachers grant to tour the country last summer and document the emergence of urban green spaces. Traveling from New York to Seattle to New Orleans, Jeffers filmed the distinct geographies, cultures and histories that shaped the landscapes of these divergent locations and documented the similarities among the community-minded citizens focused on developing green spaces that feed, educate and spiritually soothe their communities. The journey sharpened his filmmaking skills and provided new approaches for teaching his students both the creative and structured process of filmmaking.

Back home, during the fall 2009 semester, students who enrolled in Jeffers’ film production course spent a good portion of the school year learning the techniques he acquired on his fellowship and incorporating them into the films screened Thursday evening on the Twentieth Century Fox lot. Jeffers and his students are also creating a documentary focused around his fellowship about urban green spaces.

“Robert exemplifies the caliber of teacher receiving a Fund for Teachers’ grant,” explained Karen Kovach Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “We recognize in all teachers the power to transform the world and are particularly proud of Robert’s ability to translate his personal experiences last summer into a year-long curriculum benefitting students in such a dramatic way.”

Made possible by individual and corporate donors, Fund for Teachers has awarded more than $12 million in grants to approximately 3,500 of America’s top educators over the past nine years. Based in Houston, Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of America’s top teachers as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that will have the greatest impact on themselves, their students and their communities. This summer, 371 teachers closed their classroom doors to embark on their own personal and professional development experiences around the world. For more information on their destinations or how you can make teachers’ dreams a reality, visit www.fundforteachers.org.

Teacher of Islamic Studies Dispels Biases

Carl Glassman

At Millennium High School, the Lower Manhattan school founded in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Corey Pickering is determined to do her part to end Muslim stereotyping.

Last month, she received national recognition for her efforts.

Pickering, 31, teaches one of the few Islamic studies courses in the city’s public schools. She designed the course following her travels last summer in Turkey. The trip, paid for by a Fund for Teachers grant, changed her own prejudices about the religion, she said.

“The imagery that has been pounded into our brains has had an effect and it had an effect on me, too,” she said.

Out of the more than 500 teachers around the country who traveled on the grant, Pickering won the National Plank Fellowship Award based on an essay she wrote on the impact of the Turkish experience on her teaching, and on herself.

A Kentucky native with an infectious exuberance for her subject and her students (“They’re so funny. They make me laugh all day”), Pickering has taught global studies at Millennium for four years. She introduced Islam to the school two years ago with an elective for juniors and seniors that first dealt only with art and architecture.

It was a safe way, as she put it, “to approach Islam from the side.”

“But when I came back from [Turkey] I decided, no, the class works much better when we tie the conversation into foreign policy and modern conflicts and current events.”

At the risk of upsetting some students and parents, Pickering wanted to explore all aspects of the Muslim world. Many of her students, now juniors and seniors, were 4th and 5th graders in Downtown schools who were personally affected by the attacks. But for them, in particular, she said, the course is important.

“Part of the founding of this school was based on 9/11 recovery,” she said, “and it was just so relevant locally, and for this student population.” The school’s connection to the renewal of Lower Manhattan after Sept. 11 also opened the course to controversy and criticism. Pickering credits the school’s principal, Robert Rhodes, with the courage to support her.

“The fact that my principal trusts me at a public school to teach this kind of content, and would stand up and back me if anybody challenged it, I think that’s very brave on his part.”

Rhodes said he received half a dozen calls from parents who were concerned about the course.

“I invited them to look at the curriculum and talk to me but no one has taken me up on it,” he said.

Pickering said she does not shy away from discussing the violent and oppressive strains of Islam, but tries to separate the politics from the religion and what is-and is not-true to Muslim tradition.

“I don’t want to demonize anybody,” she said, “but I also don’t want to devilify anybody either.”

In interviews, many of Pickering’s students said the class, and especially a trip to a mosque on 96th Street that included a meeting with an imam, transformed their image of Muslims.

“This class changed my whole entire view,” said senior Lena Hong. “When I got to learn about their religion, how they prayed and why they believed in stuff it opened me up—it has opened my mind.”

Another student, Robert Corrales, said it is not just what Pickering teaches, but how she teaches it, that makes her stand out.

“It’s obvious how much she cares about her students and how much she cares about being a good teacher,” Corrales said. “It’s really the career she wants.”

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