Kim Morgan, Chronicle Correspondent
Memorial resident Dianna Gunn – who has run over hot rocks and away from molten lava during her world travels – will be among those who take part in Fund for Teachers’ third annual Fund Run on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Gunn, 36, a science teacher at Landrum Middle School, 2200 Ridgecrest Drive, spent two weeks studying active volcanoes in Europe, thanks to a $5,000 grant from Fund for Teachers.
“I’m not a runner, never have been, but I’m training as much as I can for that little 5K race,” Gunn said.
“I have about 15 of my friends signing up, too, because I want as many teachers as possible to have a wonderful opportunity like I did.”
Fund for Teachers is an organization that provides grants for teachers who wish to “pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.”
Gunn, who teaches seventh grade, visited volcanoes in Italy, including Mt. Etna, Vesuvius, Pompeii and Stromboli.
“Stromboli is one of the most active, if not the most active, volcanoes in the world,” Gunn said.
“It’s been erupting for thousands of years, gentle eruptions that throw out blobs of lava that look like fireworks every 15 minutes.
“But it varies, and when I was there I saw ash explosions, not lava. I was kind of disappointed but it’s also very dangerous.”
Gunn said the last time Stromboli activity waned, so much pressure built up that when it did erupt in December 2003 it blew out a side of the crater, which then slid down into the water, resulting in an 18-foot tsunami.
In fulfilling the fund’s mission, Gunn came back to Houston and created a unit for her students so they could experience what she did.
“We don’t have volcanoes in Houston, thank goodness, and they might never get a chance to see one,” Gunn said.
“I dressed every day exactly how I was dressed in the photos I was showing them.
“We had a lab where they got to go through stations, looking at samples of rock and sand I brought back.”
Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers, said that’s why teachers like Gunn are a perfect fit for the grants.
Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has provided more than $8.5 million in grants to 2,609 teachers across the United States.
In Houston, grants totaling $1.8 million have been awarded to more than 500 teachers.
The fund is supported by foundations, individuals and corporate donors.
Kovach-Webb said the Fund Run, while expected to bring out more than 1,000 participants and raise approximately $65,000, is more of an awareness campaign than a fundraiser.
“It gives our corporate supporters an opportunity for their employees to come out with their families and meet some of our teachers,” Kovach-Webb said.
“Last year in Houston we awarded 101 grants worth $375,000.”
That number will likely go up, because this year they are increasing team grant amounts from $7,500 to $10,000, she said.
“We upped it because it’s really interesting to see the teachers’ quality of work when they collaborate on their project, and then collaborate back in the classroom,” Kovach-Webb said.
Individual grants such as the one Gunn received will remain at $5,000.