Teachers followed the Tour; now students reap benefits

Doug Belden
Pioneer Press

If you watched CBS coverage of the Tour de France this summer, you might have seen a short interview with two St. Paul teachers stopped on their bikes as they made their way up a road in the French Alps.

The clip shows DeWayne and Renee Combs, tired but smiling in sunglasses and biking clothes, telling the camera crew they’re following the Tour to learn all they can and bring it back to their students.

The couple, with help from a $6,000 grant, spent 2Ĩ weeks in France and went to five stages of the Tour.

This fall, they’re drawing on that experience to enhance the physical education and health curriculum at Battle Creek Middle School.

The school received 35 mountain bikes and helmets this fall from Medtronic, and DeWayne Combs has made cycling the centerpiece of a new class he’s offering called “Fit for Life.”

The elective also will expose students to golf, bowling, lacrosse and exercise machines. “That’s our goal. Lifelong sports,” DeWayne Combs said.

Renee Combs has put up newspaper clippings, posters, hats and other Tour mementos on the wall of her health class.

She draws on the race to help her teach \ talking about seven-time winner Lance Armstrong in a lesson about cancer, for example. The kids now come in on Mondays and tell her about their biking adventures during the weekend, she said. “They’re into it.”

The couple are both mountain bike racers, and they commute to school by bike, 14 miles each way from their home in Stillwater. One day last week, DeWayne Combs used his mud-splattered bike to teach students about riding in ugly conditions.

“Mountain biking can be done in bad weather,” he told them. To prove it, he took them outside to ride on a 45-degree, drizzly morning. “It’s a little cold now. But you will get warm,” he said.

The kids were supposed to practice keeping their butts off the seat on the downhill portions of a three-quarter-mile course DeWayne Combs set up on the huge fields at the school, next to Battle Creek Regional Park on the city’s eastern edge.

Seventh-grader Nick Bethel took a spill on one of the descents. “I was riding a little too fast,” he said.

Before taking the class, Nick had only been on a bike with a foot brake. Combs said about eight of the 70 kids in his classes had never been on any kind of bicycle before signing up.

Seventh-grader Samantha Olson has her own mountain bike at home, but she said she’s picking up tips from the class that even her older sister, who usually doesn’t listen to her, is paying attention to.

The Combses received a grant for the trip through the Fund for Teachers, which distributes about $50,000 annually in private and foundation money to help St. Paul teachers enhance their skills during the summer.

The experience is supposed to be used to benefit students, and one tangible benefit from the Combs’ trip is a duffel bag full of T-shirts, hats, pins and other Tour trinkets they lugged home for the kids.

DeWayne Combs said the prizes will be given out the same way colored jerseys are awarded at the Tour de France: “We’re going to start some racing.”

Doug Belden can be reached at dbelden@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5136.

The Combses

Teachers: DeWayne Combs, 42, and Renee Combs, 44

Occupations: DeWayne teaches physical education, and Renee teaches health at Battle Creek Middle School in St. Paul

Family: Five children ranging in age from 13 to 26

Home: Stillwater

Accomplishments: Traveled to the Tour de France this summer and are incorporating lessons from the bike race into fitness instruction for students

School’s in for the summer

TownOnline.com

At the Lucy Stone Elementary School in Dorchester, Anne Roman teaches a class of 22 first graders. But this summer in Tanzania, she will teach a class three times that size.

Roman, a Scituate resident, is one of 43 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who recently won a “Fund for Teachers/Boston” grant for summer travel and study from the Boston Plan for Excellence – the city’s local education foundation. She will travel to the country of Tanzania next month in order to teach English to a class of 70, 9-year-old African students.

The overseas experience is said to be hard emotionally, physically and academically, but Roman – who will travel with a fellow teacher from the Lucy Stone School – expects it to be the most rewarding opportunity.

“We felt like we won the lottery,” she said about the chance to teach the children of the Chagga tribe in Moshi, Tanzania. “No opportunities come around like this. These are the perks to teaching.”

Roman will begin her three-week journey on July 13 under the organization and sponsorship of Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS) – an international volunteering organization.

Until then she has been brushing up on her Swahili, in order to ease the language barrier with her new students.

According to Roman, in order for the younger students to attend middle and high school, they must be fluent in English.

“As teachers and English speakers, we want to do what little we can to help, to have a small impact on global change, one child at a time,” she said.

“They rely on people like us to teach them these skills in order to remain an active part in the world market.”

Roman also hopes to bring back to her Lucy Stone students – with the majority of African American descent – the experience of new cultures and traditions and the knowledge in African folk tales for the new school year.

“We as teachers always looking for ways to make teaching interesting and more fun,” she said.

With other volunteers from around the world, Roman will stay in a Moshi village dormitory, located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. On weekends, volunteers will also take CCS-organized cultural side trips to Serengeti National Park, Olduvai Gorge, where anthropologists Louis and Mary Leakey conducted research, and to Zanzibar Island, where they’ll take the “Spice Tour.”

This is the third summer that the Fund For Teachers/Boston, joined with the Boston Plan for Excellence, has awarded grants to teachers in the city’s public schools. This summer, the chosen teachers have received $169,226 in grants to travel to and study in 29 foreign countries and several states.

Teacher pursues quilting project

North Reading resident Susan Fitzgerald will nourish her long-time passion for quilting this summer at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina, and plan the second year of a school-wide project on the fiber arts at the Boston elementary school in which she teaches. Fitzgerald is one of 43 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who recently won a Fund For Teachers/Boston grant for summer travel and study from the Boston Plan for Excellence, the city’s local education foundation.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to develop my skills as a quilter in a relaxed setting,” says Fitzgerald, who teaches grade 2 at Manning Elementary School in Jamaica Plain. “Being one of 12 students in a supportive classroom, developing my creative skills in color and pattern, is a dream, with nature as a backdrop.”

Fitzgerald is part of a three-teacher team from the Manning who will study at the folk arts school. Last year, the Manning was the “lucky recipient” of several sheep fleeces, a donation that led to a school-wide project on the fiber arts. “We all learned to skirt, scour, and pick the fleece. Hallways were filled with children lugging buckets of water to and from classrooms to wash away muck from the wool. “The children loved it!,” the team says. That project helped students understand, they emphasize, that everyday materials came from somewhere, and that production was a step-by-step process that can be broken down, identified, and with practice, mastered.

In their two weeks in North Carolina, studying under nationally known instructors and with “protected time to focus on our own education,” the three hope to master new skills in dyeing, weaving, and quilting for their project this fall. “Student learning, especially their language skills, just exploded during our fiber arts unit last year,” says Fitzgerald. “They described the activities, shared experiences, read directions, wrote stories (and directions), recorded results, predicted amounts of material and time needed for tasks.” Adding quilting will allow students to experiment with shapes, color, and pattern designs and to integrate math, Fitzgerald adds.

Fitzgerald has taught in Boston’s public schools for 34 years, including 23 years at the Manning, and has lived in East Walpole for 22 years. She has also been a member of North Parish Quilters for 20 years.

Fund For Teachers/Boston is a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public Schools, and this is the third summer the partnership has awarded grants to teachers in the city’s public schools. For summer 2006, 43 teachers have won $169,226 in grants to travel to and study in 29 foreign countries and several states. Supported exclusively with private monies, Fund For Teachers/Boston is underwritten by the national Fund For Teachers; by the Surdna Foundation and an anonymous donor, which fund Teachers As Artists grants; and by other donors.

Fellow Testimonial – Bryan Meadows

Fund for Teachers Sends 82 Traveling

Eighty-two Tulsa area teachers, representing 36 schools, received Fund for Teachers grants this year for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

Participants in the program gathered at the Bok Tower downtown recently to share stories, artifacts, slide shows, photos, memorabilia and teaching tools from their summer sabbaticals.

FFT grants are awarded to teachers who work with students in grades prekindergarten through grade 12 who spend at least 50 prcent of their time in the classroom and have a minimum of three years teaching experience. Participants are selected based on how their summer fellowship will make the applicant a better teacher, how improved skills or capacity will benefit students, curricula and the school.

The teachers from the Tulsa area this year traveled as far north as Alaska and as far south as Australia.

Individual teachers can apply for as much as $5,000 through the program; teams of teachers can apply for a maximum of $7,500. As part of the application process, teachers must submit a written proposal and an itemized budget.

Applicants are selected to receive grants based on how their proposed summer activity will enhance their teaching skills and better the education of their students.

Fund for Teachers was founded by Ray Plank, founder and chairman of the board for Apache Corporation in 1998. Its mission is to enrich the lives of schoolteachers and students by providing recognition and opportunities for renewal to outstanding teachers. Fund for Teachers awards grants directly to teachers for supporting professional development opportunities of their own design.

Applications for next summer are due Jan. 20. For more information, call the Tulsa Community Foundation at 494-8823 or go online to the Fund for Teachers Web site at www.fundforteachers.org.

Fund Inspires Teachers To Inspire Their Students

Shaun Epperson, World Staff Writer

Fran Kallsnick wept as she gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time.

Kallsnick, who teaches art at Byrd Middle School, visited Italy this year as part of a grant from the Fund for Teachers, a foundation that provides summer travel opportunities for educators with a goal of enriching education for them and their students.

“I finally had realized one of the major dreams of my life,” Kallsnick said of her 16-day trip, which included stops in Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan and Como. “I could never imagine what it could be like in person.”

Kallsnick made the comments Tuesday during a gathering of several 2005 participants at the BOk Tower downtown. A total of 82 Tulsa-area teachers received grants through the Fund for Teachers in 2005.

Teachers of prekindergarten through grade 12 who spend at least 50 percent of their time in the classroom and have a minimum of three years teaching experience are eligible for a grant.

Kallsnick said the experience of traveling to Italy and seeing firsthand the art she teaches her students about has had a positive effect in her classroom.

She also brought back teach ing material for her class.

“When students are working, they’re always asking me about different aspects of my trip,” she said. “With the slides and all of the materials I brought back, they’re really interested in it.”

Individual teachers can apply for as much as $5,000 through the program; teams of teachers can apply for a maximum of $7,500, said Paula Wood, a program officer of the Tulsa Community Foundation, a sponsor of the program.

As part of the application process, teachers must submit a written proposal and an itemized budget.

Applicants are selected to receive grants based on how their proposed summer activity will enhance their teaching skills and better the education of their students.

Kallsnick said her experience abroad has revitalized her passion for teaching and has given her a better perspective.

“This is my 20th year of teaching, and I’m just as inspired, if not more so, now,” she said. “There are so many ideas I have that I want to do.”

Raymond Plank, the founder and chairman of the Fund for Teachers, said inspired teachers inspire students and other educators.

“The enthusiasm and the learning are very transferrable to the kids,” he said. “We do find that teachers who have gone through this program bring it back to schools where they teach and into the community.”

Wood said teachers should put a lot of thought into what destination they choose and how their time there could benefit them and their students.

“Really, the sky is the limit,” she said. “We’re hoping that teachers think of an area of the world that would be of interest to them and would be of value to the classroom.”

Applications for next summer are due Jan. 20. For more information, call the Tulsa Community Foundation at 494-8823 or go online to the Fund for Teachers Web site at www.fundforteachers.org.

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.”

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.