Area teachers get education grants

N Houston Chronicle

More than 100 Houston-area teachers have received $344,000 in grants from a national education foundation called Fund for Teachers. The money from the Houston-based group will send teachers around the nation – and, in some cases, the world – so they can return with new lessons for their students.

Candace Garvin, a special education teacher at HISD’s The School at Post Oak, will travel to South Africa to learn about a mentoring program for troubled girls, for example. Jean King, an art teacher at De Zavala Elementary, will travel to New Mexico to study the art of Georgia O’Keefe.

The Fund for Teachers, founded in 1998 by Apache Corporation Chairman Raymond Plank, doled out $1.9 million in grants to more than 500 teachers nationwide this year.

State teachers to travel the globe, thanks to foundation grant awards

Nora Froeschle, Staff Writer
Chron.com

Teacher Regina Driver, who is originally from Great Britain, said it’s funny, but she had to come to Owasso to finally visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

“I grew up in southwest London, but I never ever had an opportunity to study in Stratford-upon-Avon,” said Driver, who teaches junior and senior literature at Owasso High School.

That is, until now. Three organizations awarded more than 100 Oklahoma teachers such as Driver a total of $350,000 in grant money to travel and study this summer.

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, said it is the second year that the grant program has been offered statewide.

The foundation, along with the Tulsa Community Foundation and the national organization Fund for Teachers, have awarded 69 grants to 108 Oklahoma teachers.

“To help teachers expand their knowledge is one of the best ways that we feel like we can further our mission,” Stratton said. “It is respecting them for what they are doing and recognizing that they need nurturing too.”

Driver said she will spend a week studying at the Globe Theatre in London and a week at Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shocked by the news that she would receive the fellowship grant, Driver shared it with her students.

“I was amazed at how happy they were,” she said.

Stratton said teachers often have life-changing experiences when they study a subject up close.

“If you’ve had a teacher that has had that experience, she brings, or he brings so much more,” she said.

Elisa Heroux, who teaches earth science at Jenks Middle School, is going to Hawaii to study active volcanoes with the Kona Science Project.

The project is a workshop put on by two geologists who live there, she said.

“They’re going to let us get right up there on the crater,” she said.

Heroux believes she will be able to get closer to lava flows than if she were a tourist.

“I plan on taking a lot of pictures,” she said.

Broken Arrow teacher Beverly Webb said traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Auschwitz, Poland, will help her build a curriculum for teaching about the Holocaust and World War II.

“I’m really excited. I’ve actually been thinking about it most of the year,” said Webb, who teaches sixth-grade world history at Centennial Middle School.

Webb will visit the cemetery in St. Petersburg where at least 200,000 are buried.

“It’s basically a mass grave,” she said. “The Nazis laid siege to Leningrad for 900 days, approximately, and so a lot of people died from the shelling and from starvation.”

Webb, whose class did art projects that expressed their personal feelings about the Holocaust, will also visit Auschwitz, where more than 4 million people, mostly Jews, were executed between 1940 and 1945.

“I hope to be able to take my impressions of what I see and hear and be able to sit down and think of thought-provoking lessons,” Webb said.

Stratton said the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence wants to create its own endowment to fund the program in the years to come.

Washington Trio Wins Grants

Clinton News Daily

Big Adventures are ahead for these three Washington Elementary School educators. Joe Thomas will be retracing the steps of legendary explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in the Northwestern United States while (continuing from left) language arts and social studies sixth grade teacher Diana Jones and media specialist Tina Hernandez will be packing their bags this June for Egypt. The three won two grants from Fund for Teachers. (CDN Photo by Robert Bryan)

Three educators at Washington Elementary School in Clinton have won two grants from Fund for Teachers that should greatly enhance educational opportunities at their school.

The three honorees are librarian Tina Hernandez, sixth grade teacher Diane Jones and physical education teacher Joe Thomas.

Hernandez and Jones won their grant to finance a trip to Egypt to see several of the historic and geographic sites there as well as tour some Egyptian schools.

They will be going to Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, the Valley of the Kings and the Nile River.

The Clinton pair also will spend an evening with an Egyptian family to learn their customs and about their lifestyles.

Information from their trip will be used to enhance a study unit on Egypt that the school has hosted for several years.

They also hope to make an alliance with a school in Egypt so that Clinton students can write letters to their Egyptian classmates. They plan on embarking for the ancient land of the pharaohs in June.

Joe Thomas won a separate grant which he will use to retrace the westward exploration route of famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, hiking, canoeing and bike riding the trails.

Thomas also plans to bring his wealth of experiences exploring the great Northwest United States back to the classroom.

He will be working with the students on using a compass, map skills, the geo-positioning satellite (GPS) system and even setting up tents.

Thomas, who routinely takes his students on long trudges in and around Clinton, will be bringing back video pictures and information on how the explorers were able to survive in the wilderness.

Principal Dawna Mosburg commented, “We are very proud of these three teachers and the work they put into writing these grants. It took them around three months of research and writing, then editing to finish their grant applications. These are an example of the kinds of teachers we have in Clinton.”

The 2006 Plank Fellowship

A trio of Oklahoma teachers have been named as the second recipients of the Plank Fellowship Award. Read more.

Teacher brings sights of Europe to school

Carla Rabalais
Chron.com

THIRTY-three museums in 31 days. Six countries and 7,500 miles and all for under $5,000.

That’s the feat that Cavan Leerkamp, art teacher at Queens Intermediate School in Pasadena, proposed to accomplish. And last spring, representatives of the Fund For Teachers said “Go for it.”

Leerkamp, 29, spent a month last summer touring Europe’s most famous art museums. He sketched and wrote in his journal as he observed Michelangelo’s David, Picasso’s She Goat, and the barbed wire of Dachau concentration camp.

Shares trip with pupils

He photographed cathedrals and countrysides and compiled them all into a sketchbook-travel journal that is now digitized to share with pupils and teachers. His goal was to develop a simpler approach to art – even by the Masters – that students can grasp.

“I started showing my students the photographs, and we spent the rest of that day and the next looking at all of them,” Leerkamp said. “They were eyes wide open. They wanted to hear every detail.”

Fund For Teachers, a nonprofit organization, has sponsored more than 400 teachers in the Houston area since Raymond Plank, founder of Apache Corp., created the public foundation. It offers grants of up to $5,000 to teachers for self-designed professional development experiences. Houstonians will gather near the Galleria at Post Oak Boulevard on Saturday for Fund For Teacher’s second annual Fund Run. Last year, the Fund Run raised more than $150,000 as part of the $3 million raised area-wide all for local educators.

“You could give money to one child, and that could make a difference,” said Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund For Teachers, “but one teacher can impact as many as 3,000 students.”

As a Fund For Teachers fellow, Leerkamp now brings the breath of Europe to hundreds of seventh and eighth graders in southeast Houston. He saw the scope of impact his grant could have last fall when he brought five students to participate in a street art festival in Houston.

“Some of them had never even been downtown, not even into Houston,” Leerkamp said. “This trip to Europe was a much grander scale – it’s like me going to the moon and coming back and talking about it.”

To qualify for a grant, teachers must have at least three years experience, provide a detailed budget for the learning experience and show how the opportunity will help them to impact the community. Most of the grants involve cultural immersion, whether that culture is in the U.S. or abroad, but all have a common goal of better teaching.

Making kids more global

“With today’s global economy, we need a populace that’s more informed about how the rest of the world thinks,” said Kovach-Webb. “We need to expose our teachers so they can expose kids, and encourage children to dream. The world is much bigger than Pasadena or Harris County.”

For Leerkamp, the experience has brought more than interesting stories and photos to inspire students.

“I think the biggest thing I took away is confidence,” Leerkamp said. “Now when we go through the textbook and I see a painting, I’ll tell kids, ‘Whoa, I just saw that!’ They really listen when they know you’ve been there.”

To view Leerkamp’s art, visit www.cavanarts.com.

Atlanta Base Fellows Receives FFT Grant

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Bringing the world to class

Teacher hopes her trip to frigid Antarctica fires up students’ interest in traveling, learning

Sarah Viren
Houston Chronicle

The students in Daphne Rawlinson’s elementary school science classes don’t quite get it when she says: I am going to Antarctica.

Sure, she’s showed them on the globe, but that looks like a few inches away, not more than 13,000 miles. And when she talks about cold, many can only compare that to last week in Houston, when temperatures dipped into the 30s.

“Most of our students, or a lot of our students, haven’t even been out of the state of Texas,” Rawlinson said. “So to get them to visualize that you are going to the other side of the world… They don’t have a lot of understanding.”

That’s one reason the teacher and science specialist at Houston’s J. Will Jones Elementary School proposed the trip, and why Fund for Teachers agreed pick up the tab, which Rawlinson estimates in the thousands.

Protected continent
The Houston-based organization awards travel grants each year to teachers nationwide. It has sponsored art and cultural studies in Egypt and research on humpback whales off the coast of Brazil.

Rawlinson is the first of its fellows traveling all the way south, to the land of penguins, seals and mammoth glaciers.

The Houston native said she has always wanted to go where the ice is. But Antarctica is attractive for other reasons.

“What has been the most fascinating thing to me is to see how the entire world has come together to protect this one spot,” she said. “It is protected by the Antarctica Treaty, and it is maintained for scientific research.”

No one country governs Antarctica; instead, governments work together to allow researchers from different areas to study its habitat. Tourism is limited and military activities banned.

Rawlinson is going through a graduate study-abroad program with the University of Georgia. On Dec. 26, she and a group of students will fly to South America, where they will board a boat for a day-and-a-half trip to the ice continent.

Once there, she will spend her nights sleeping on the boat (there are no hotels or gift shops in Antarctica, Rawlinson likes to remind those asking about her accommodations) and her days researching the icy habitat, keeping a journal and taking pictures and video.

A tool to ace TAKS
Rawlinson’s plan is to return home Jan. 9 with enough material to form a life-science unit on the continent for her students.

deally her lesson plan will inspire students to travel when they grow up but also help improve their science-test passing rates on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests, which three years ago were in the teens.

The scores picked up last year but still need work, said Brian Flores, principal of the school, which has a high population of economically disadvantaged students.

“The whole key for children learning is making those real-life connections,” he said.

“These kids don’t have the opportunity to go to museums all the time. They don’t have the opportunity to travel out of the country or state, so when we have the opportunity to really teach something like this from real-life experience we jump on board.”

To prepare her for her trip, the Georgia program sent Rawlinson a four-page packing list. “In 10-point font,” she emphasized.

She bought a down parka, insulated ski pants and gloves lined with fleece, which she is supposed to cover with insulated mittens. She’ll also have a journal and her digital camera, which takes video.

She hopes to get footage of her boat trip through the notoriously rough Drake Passage and shots of her alongside penguins, anything that would inspire her students.

“Kids are like little sponges,” she said. “They are so interested. If you get them talking about something, they just keep going and going.”

An investment in teachers is an investment in our children

FOX 26 News Houston