Seguin Elementary School teachers to take part in Fund Run for Teachers

Kim Morgan, Chronicle Correspondent

Sarah Baker, Nirmol Lim and Amy Rose, all teachers at Seguin Elementary School, 5905 Waltrip Street, aren’t much for running.

But they want to show their gratitude and support to Fund for Teachers, so they will volunteer at the registration booth or by passing out water during the FFT Fund Run on Feb. 9.

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 pupils and on their school communities.”

Baker and Lim received a team grant of $7,500 to attend a national energy conference in Washington D.C. last July.

Lim, who teaches fifth grade, said they would never have been able to afford the conference without the help of Fund for Teachers.

“The conference itself was $1,000 each excluding airfare and taxi,” said Lim, a 29-year-old southeast Houston resident. “It is wonderful of Fund for Teachers to help teachers learn.”

Baker, a fifth grade science lab teacher, said she learned things at the conference that surprised her.

“I learned a lot about nuclear energy,” said Baker, a 28-year-old Meyerland resident.

“One thing that surprised me most is that nuclear energy is renewable. The tablets they use to make uranium, they can use again and again.”

Baker said she met a woman at the conference from Puerto Rico whose home runs completely off of solar energy.

“It costs her $3 a month,” Baker said. “I didn’t know you can get solar shingles on your homes.”

In keeping with part of the mission of Fund for Teachers, Baker is passing everything she learned on to her science pupils at Seguin.

“We’re about to start our energy unit,” Baker said. “We will build solar ovens, solar cars, hydro-powered cars and design a (wind) turbine.

“The grant also provided money to buy the materials to do the activities. I was able to get more than $800 worth of supplies.”

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers, loves to hear stories like that.

She 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 grants from $7,500 to $10,000.

“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 will remain at $5,000.

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.

Fund Run set for Feb. 9

South Belt Ellington Leader

The third annual Fund for Teachers Fund Run will take place Saturday, Feb. 9, near the Galleria on South Post Oak Road between Ambassador Way and Lynn lane beginning at 8 a.m.

Founded by Raymond Plank in 2001, FFT’s mission is to raise grant money for teachers to travel during their summer vacations to broaden their horizons and return to share what they’ve learned with students.

To date, more than 2,500 teachers from 47 states have studied and traveled throughout the United States and 100 other countries on seven continents.

The nonprofit organization is supported by foundations, individuals and corporate donors. Since its inception, the group has provided $8,571,804 in grants to 2,609 teachers.

In Houston alone, FFT has awarded grants totaling $1.8 million to more than 500 teachers.

The 2007 Fund Run had more than 1,000 participants and benefited more than 100 local teachers.

FFT grants are awarded to teachers working with students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers submit proposals detailing how their fellowship will make them a better teacher and how their improved skills are to be implemented in the classroom, benefiting students, curricula and school. Grants are awarded based on application quality and merit as judged by a committee.

Several teachers with ties to the South Belt have been past grant recipients. Among these are Donna Edwards and Robbie Biggerstaff.

Edwards, a South Belt resident and math teacher at De Zavala Fifth-Grade Center, traveled with a group to Costa Rica to learn about the scientific wonders of the region and to experience immersion in the Spanish language and culture. She attended a two-week intense Spanish language program at the Costa Rica Language Academy. The teacher also went on excursions to places like Tortuguero National Park to study the rich ecological zones and biodiversity of the country and gather scientific information, pictures and videos to show her students upon return.

Biggerstaff, a seventh grade English teacher at Beverly Hills Intermediate, went on a trip last summer to visit the birthplaces of Southern female authors to discover how culture, history and geography inspired their work. She went on a four-week literary tour of three Southern states, visiting the homes of seven women authors, including Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. She studied the locales that influenced these writers in an effort to better share their stories with her students.

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of FFT, is enthusiastic about this year’s event, “Houston has so many wonderful teachers, and it also has a truly generous community of people that want to inspire them to keep doing what they do,” she said, adding, “With the help of people like these, we want to make it possible for more teachers to develop their own talents so they can infuse students with vision and confidence. We are thrilled to host this third Fund Run, and we look forward to seeing a big turnout to show the love for our local teachers.”

The event will feature a 5-kilometer race for children. The top male and female finishers of the 5-kilometer competition will each receive a $100 gift certificate to Fleet Feet.

The children’s race is free, while entry fees for the 5-kilometer contest vary. Early registration is $20 for participants 18 years of age and older and $10 for 17 and younger. Late registration is $25 for 18 and older and $15 for 17 and younger. Early registration ends Friday, Jan. 25. Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.

Sign-in and late registration will take place from 7 to 8 a.m. The children’s race will go from 8 to 8:30 a.m., and the 5-kilometer run will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Registration is available online at or by calling 1-800-681-2667.

Registration fees include a T-shirt and chip timer. Due to city ordinances, pets are not permitted.

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2007 Fund Run Photos

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2007 Fund Run

Noticias 45, Houston

2007 Fund Run

Local 2 News, Houston

Fund Run finances inspiration for teachers

Flori Meeks, Chronicle Correspondent

When Jo Ann Arlitt feels stress coming on, she likes to look at the photos from her summer trip to Greece.

The Spring Forest Middle School teacher and colleague Teresa Cardwell attended a creativity seminar there with a $7,500 grant from the national Fund for Teachers organization.

“It has helped me see things from a different perspective,” said Arlitt, who teaches eighth-grade math. “It was just incredible.”

Fund For Teachers, 2000 Post Oak Blvd., gives teachers grants for summer professional development opportunities.

Art teacher Susan Smith of Aldine’s Carroll Academy used an organization grant to learn to create mosaics in Italy last July with Carroll German teacher Birgit Langhammer.

“We are still kind of in shock that we were able to do this,” Smith said. “Learning a new medium is so eye-opening and overwhelming. It’s almost like being a kid again.”

During the last five years, Fund for Teachers has awarded more than 2,000 grants.

The recipients include 417 Houston-area teachers representing 286 schools.

The nonprofit organization will strive to raise funds for more grants Saturday when it hosts a Fund Run in uptown Houston.

The event, sponsored by the Galleria Chamber of Commerce, will include a 5-kilometer run/walk and a 1-kilometer Kids K race. The top male and female finishers in the 5K events will receive roundtrip domestic tickets from Southwest Airlines.

Fund for Teachers launched the run last year.

“It was just a way of introducing ourselves to the broader city,” said Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director. “We want to make sure every teacher knows about us.”

The run went so well the organization decided to make an annual fund-raiser.

This year, Bayou City Road Runners is administering it.

Fund for Teachers’ grants are $5,000 for individuals and $7,500 for groups.

“One teacher can affect 3,000 students,” said Kovach-Webb, who lives in the Memorial area. “They’re being totally re-charged.”

The program has sent teachers to the Galapagos Islands, Auschwitz, the Freedom Trail in Boston, Vietnam, Space Camp and the Antarctica, among other spots.

Arlitt’s and Cardwell’s initial idea was to ask Fund for Teachers to help them attend a summer math workshop.

“Then we thought how this is supposed to rejuvenate us, too, as individuals,” said Arlitt, who teaches eighth grade. “We thought a creativity workshop would help us add something to those mundane lessons and add some zip and pizzazz.”

Fund for Teachers approved their request to attend a workshop in Crete, and the teachers spent nine days there last June.

“This just opened our eyes to another world,” Arlitt said. The workshop students started each day with relaxation exercises, followed by activities designed to strengthen their creative sides.

“Now, it really helps me,” Arlitt said. “I’m having my students do a lot more modeling of things.”

Arlitt is using much of what she learned with her at-risk students.

“It’s really helped us bring this (math comprehension) to students who didn’t think they could do anything,” she said.

Smith said her experience has had an impact in the classroom, too.

She and Langhammer attended a mosaic art school in Italy, where they learned the techniques of Byzantine artists.

Their instructor is one of a handful of people worldwide with the training and expertise to restore mosaics from the third and fourth centuries, Smith said.

“The whole experience was incredible. She was very interesting.”

Now, she said, her students are fascinated with her stories about Italy and her lessons on mosaics.

“When they feel you believe in what you’re doing they learn so much better,” said Smith, who has volunteered to help with the Fund Run.

“Whatever Fund for Teachers wants me to do in the future I’m there because I want other teachers to have this experience.”

2007 Fund Run

Great Day Houston