A Somerville-based Boston public school teacher has won a grant for summer travel to Southeast Asia in order to bolster her classroom teaching.

Christopher H. Roberts

“I want to hear the stories from Vietnamese voices to complement the stories that I know,” said Bethany Wood, who teaches American literature of the Vietnam conflict as part of her 11th grade curriculum at Another Course to College in Brighton.

Wood currently uses works by Tim O’Brien and other Americans who have been in Vietnam in her class, but she is unsatisfied with the limited scope that the American perspective allows, she said.

“Because of my own limited knowledge about Vietnam, when I present these works by American writers I present a stagnant and stale history,” she said. “The story is one dimensional, beginning and ending with the war and told only through American voices.”

“I have come to realize that I am not telling the whole story. I am not telling the Vietnamese story,” she said.

This summer Wood will tour Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in order to craft her own, first hand understanding of the region’s culture and people, she said.

Over the course of her month-long stay, Wood will visit dozens of historical and cultural sites, both to learn and to gather materials. She will go off the beaten tourist path in order to shop, dine and live where the locals do. Particularly, she will focus on works by Vietnamese authors to accentuate her course, she said.

The Vietnam experience is a difficult story to teach to current high school students, but it is vitally important to do so, Wood said.

“My students don’t have as strong feelings about the Vietnam War as they do about the first Gulf war or the current Iraq war. One can’t look beyond the fact that the Vietnam War is a major part of our history and it plays heavily on our consciousness,” she said.

Wood also wants to fulfill the needs of her own students who are of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian descent. “Their story is going untold,” she said. “I want to understand Vietnam beyond just thinking of it in context of the war.”

Wood’s journey will start in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. From there, she will take excursions to My Son and My Lai. She will travel from south to north, making stops in the Imperial City of Hue and the former Demilitarized Zone on her way to Hanoi, she said.

She will make a stop at the Truong Son National Cemetery, where 11,000 Vietnamese war dead are buried; she will also stay with a Vietnamese family in the Mekong Delta, she said.

She is particularly excited about her home stay, she said. “I especially want to see firsthand the landscape of the Mekong Delta, vividly described by so many American soldiers,” she said. “A home stay there is very important to me.”

Wood said she will be part of a tour group for part of her tour, but her trip will also include solo travel. “I am deliberately stepping out of my comfort zone and I expect to feel some disequilibrium in this new culture,” she said.

“But, I also expect the experience will challenge my thinking as a teacher and as a woman, test my own limits, and make me contemplate my life from a new direction,” she said.

She will also stay connected to her students, despite being thousands of miles away. “I’m going to create a multi-media scrapbook on the Web chronicling my trip, so that my students can follow along with me as I make my journey,” she said. “I want my students to see what it’s like, to question every stage of the trip.”

Wood said she received her grant from a Fund for Teachers/Boston, a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public Schools system. This is the second year that the partnership has awarded grants to teachers in the city’s public schools.

For summer of 2005, the project has awarded $172,500 to 47 teachers for travel in 24 foreign countries and 20 states. Fund for Teaches/Boston is administered by the Boston Plan for Excellence, and is affiliated with the national Fund for Teachers Foundation, she said.

Teacher Wins Grant

DePina plans to take his own field trip to the Cape Verde Islands

By Steve Macone

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,” St. Augustine said.

If that’s the case, then Stoughton resident Sam DePina has an entire summer worth of Barnes and Noble gift certificates to cash in.

DePina is one of 47 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who won a Fund For Teachers grant for summer travel and study form the Boston Plan for Excellence, a local education foundation. Now in its second year, the program has awarded $172,500 in grants for teachers to visit 24 foreign countries and more than 20 states.

DePina, who is second generation Cape Verdean and speaks the language, plans to travel to the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.

In addition to airfare and expenses, the grant will allow DePina to purchase artifacts and materials to use in the classroom.

“I love working with children. I hope by studying abroad I can make a link with something they’re interested in,” DePina said.

DePina teaches math and is the dean of students at Health Careers Academy, a small high school on the Northeastern University campus for students with an interest in healthcare professions. The school is going on its 10th year and has about 200 students.

“We were looking for candidates who tied what they were doing in the summer to what they’d do in the fall. Sam clearly does that. Many of the families of his students came from other countries,” said Mary Ann Cohen of the Boston Plan for Excellence.

DePina will explore what opportunities exist for US-trained health professionals to return to work in their home country, starting with the Cape Verde islands.

Ninety percent of the students at the school have cultural backgrounds from other countries, DePina said.

DePina will gauge the island’s future employment needs and hiring processes.

“We’re looking to build partnerships with people form overseas,” he said.

During August, he will interview doctors, visit hospitals, meet with the mayor to the capital city of Praia and public officials and gather statistics for a data analysis lesson he will teach this fall.

“I’m bringing that [information] back so we can build it into our curriculum and make it interdisciplinary,’ DePina said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is build experiential learning.”

DePina, who grew up in Dorchester, is president of the Cape Verdean Community/Uniting Neighbors In Developing Ourselves organization in Roxbury. With this group, DePina has already visited the islands.

“Last summer we took a group to play in basketball tournaments and held clinics for the younger kids,” he said.

DePina also helped found the Diamond Educators a mentoring and tutoring program. And he is on the board of directors at the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporations, which assists in getting loans for small businesses, redeveloping property and improving neighborhoods.

Teachers Turn Student Through Summer Grants

Pat McGroarty
Special To The Reporter

As area students head to beaches and ball fields during the vacation months of July and August, teachers from 33 Boston public schools will selflessly devote their time off to becoming students themselves.

Well, sort of.

Eight Dorchester teachers will be among 47 pedagogues awarded summer study grants through the Boston Plan for Excellence. Now in its second year as a joint initiative between Boston Public Schools and the Fund For Teachers/Boston, the program provides educators with the opportunity to escape the classroom and deepen understanding of their field as students are deepening their summer tans.

The 47 teachers were awarded a total of $172,493 in grants to help them reach research destinations in 24 countries and 20 states. One neighborhood resident and eight teachers at Dorchester schools are included in the group whose plans feature a fascinating mix of subjects, destinations, and goals.

Dorchester native Martha Glavin Kempe of Mather Elementary school is bound for Florence to see some of world’s most famous works of art. A visual arts teacher, visiting Florence has been a lifelong goal for Kempe.

Italy is also the next stop for Dot resident and Hyde Park High School teacher Christine Copeland, who plans to follow her muse through English and Italian cities that influence the life and work of William Shakespeare. The English teacher will begin in England’s Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, before heading to the Italian cities of Rome, Venice and Verona to study towns that set the stage for romances and tragedies like “Romeo and Juliet.”

Speaking of romance, Courtney Dahill and Lisa Tarnetino form the Murphy K-8 school will be traveling to another bastion of romance language as they study creative writing in Barcelona, Spain.

Stateside, Winthrop Elementary School teacher Carolyn Hardy will explore the scientific and historical significance of the Grand Canyon. Through her personal tour she will create a virtual tour for her students: “My students have limited cognitive and other skills, and I need to use non-traditional means to reach them,” explains Hardy.

Laina Jones, a humanities teacher at Harbor Point Middle School, will also be traveling cross-country as she investigates Girls’ Rites of Passage (GROP) programs.

“I have been co-director of the GROP program at my school for three years,” says Jones, whose first stop will be Detroit, Michigan, “and visiting other sites will give me the opportunity to talk with girls from all over the country about their experiences.”

Closer to home, Marcia Young of the Lee Elementary School will follow a life-long passion for knitting to a five day workshop in New York’s Finger Lakes. Young hopes techniques she learns at the camp will help her incorporate knitting into a story telling unit for her kindergarten class next fall.

As Young spins a yarn or two just hours from Boston, Sally Wattles of Dever Elementary School will be a world away on the South Pacific Island of Tahiti. An art teacher fascinated by 19th century Impressionism, Wattles will study the tropical locale that helped Paul Gauguin change the art world.

Three area teachers awarded grants to travel, attend seminars/workshops

Ninety-six teachers from charter schools, private schools and 10 different school districts from the Houston-area received Fund For Teachers grants for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

Three teachers from the Leader-area were among those who received grants. They were:

  • Mekiva Callahan, from Aldine Ninth Grade School, chosen to participate with the MAESTRO Program fro Non-Spanish Teachers to study the Spanish language and explore the Spanish culture;
  • Karen Reeve, from Houston Wainwright Elementary, picked to explore, study, photograph and video the northwestern states of America; and
  • Neena Taylor, from Jersey Village High School, chosen to attend “The Complete Choral Musician” workshop sponsored by the Julliard School in New York City.

FFT grants are awarded to teachers who work with students in grades K-12 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 and capacity will be implemented in the classroom and how the teachers’ improved skills or capacity will benefit students, curricula and the school.

The teachers will embark upon a variety of trips this summer, which will include travels to Mexico, Spain, Europe and throughout the United States. Focus of studies for these trips include: Spanish immersion, literature, history, geography, science, photography, cultures and internships.

FFT is a unique public foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of schoolteachers and students by providing outstanding teachers with recognition and opportunities for renewal. Making a difference one teacher at a time, FFT provides funds for direct grants to teachers to support learning opportunities of their own design.

A summer of learning for Boston public teachers

West Roxbury Bulletin
Jeff Gilbride, Bulletin staff

Some Parkway teachers intend to add a little national and international flavor to their students’ curriculum this year after spending the summer in exotic places as far away as Ghana.

Boston Plan for Excellence, the city’s local education foundation, awarded $172,500 in grants to 47 teachers from the Boston Public Schools to visit 24 foreign countries and more than 20 states in search of educational inspiration to bring back to their schools.

The grants were offered through a joint initiative with the Boston Public Schools and Fund For Teachers/Boston.

West Roxbury resident Elizabeth Rendon and a colleague won a team grant for their joint proposal in which they spent part of the summer in Ghana to learn first hand about the West African nation’s culture, geography, people and education.

Rendon, a first grade teacher at the Mattapan Early Education Center (MEEC), and teammate Michelle Pless-Joseph, who also teaches first grade at MEEC, chose to VISIT Ghana because they felt it was important for Boston’s first grade social studies curriculum. Rendon left for Africa Wednesday Aug. 10, and the Bulletin spoke wither the day after she returned, Thursday Aug. 25.

“We actually just got back last night. It was amazing! It’s definitely a place to see and learn. I was impressed with the people and how nice and how happy they were, even though a lot of them lived in poverty,” Rendon said. “We visited a school and the teachers were very kind and willing to learn from us. That was an amazing experience. …That’s the one thing I don’t think I’ll experience anywhere else. We actually brought school supplies and donations to their village…and they were very grateful.”

Rendon stayed in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and also took some day trips to Kumasi and Cape Coast. She’s now figuring out ways that she can translate her experiences into curriculum for her students.

“We have taken a lot of pictures and videos and we plan to create thematic books for first graders,” Rendon said. “We have software that will allow us to download the pictures we have and create text to create an online library. … We also have video which we hope to set up as a website.”

That website would be accessible to teachers all over greater Boston.

Roslindale native Jessica Gorham received a grant to brush up on her Spanish this summer by taking a course in Madrid and touring historical and artistic sites in Barcelona, Valencia, Granada and Seville.

Gorham is an Italian teacher at East Boston High School, where she teaches grades 9 through 11. She said many of her students are from Latin America.

“It was really incredible. I’m an Italian teacher and I wanted to learn Spanish so I could diversify my teaching,” Gorham said. “So I went there as part of a program through the Spanish embassy, where I was able to participate in a three-week language program in Madrid. It was for Spanish teachers so I studied Spanish language and culture.”

Gorham said that while in Spain she developed an Internet BLOG, describing the places she stayed at, which she intends to integrate into her curriculum this year among other experiences.

“I won’t be teaching Spanish this year, but I’ll be able to use what I learned about the structure of the Spanish language in order to explain the difference between Spanish and Italian to my students that are regular Spanish speakers,” Gorham said.

Gorham said she liked being in the position of a student and experiencing personal triumphs that come with learning.

“It took me a few weeks to feel really comfortable with the language and then to be able to express myself with the people fluently was really the best experience,” she said.

Gorham took a course in Madrid that was designed for Spanish teachers at K-12 schools and community colleges and covered grammar, pronunciation, methods and materials, as well as techniques for incorporating Spanish history, theatre, and art into her curriculum.

Other teachers who live or teach in the Parkway area who were awarded grants include Cambridge resident Ana Vaisenstein, a math teacher-coach at Roslindale’s Sumner Elementary School who traveled 11,000 miles this summer to learn to use an ancient math tool: the soroban or Japanese abacus; Roslindale resident Teresa Marx, who attended the International Chem-Ed Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia; Roslindale resident Lisa Evans, an English as a Second Language teacher at Roxbury’s Orchards Gardens K-8 School, studied literacy and interviewed teachers in the Dominican Republic; and Roslindale resident Kathleen Doyle studied on and off-Broadway (and off-off-Broadway) plays in New York City to help teach children’s theater-related programs in Boston.

The Fund For Boston Teachers is a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) and the Boston Public Schools (BPS), and this is the second year the partnership has awarded grants to city teachers.

Foundation grants teacher’s wish

Byrd Middle School instructor going to Italy

Tulsa World
David R. Million, Staff Writer

Fran Kallsnick is a dreamer. Going ice skating, going to Disney World and having healthy and fabulous children are among those dreams.

They all have come true, although it took years for a couple of them to reach fruition. This summer, a major dream that could have been many years in the making will come true just a few months after the Byrd Middle School art teacher conceived it.

Kallsnick will spend two weeks viewing artwork, especially pieces that the Medici family amassed. Her trip, which will begin soon after school ends for the summer, will be paid for by the Funds for Teachers Foundation.

Eight-two Tulsa-area teachers received about $215,000 for educational trips around the world. The money is administered locally through the Tulsa Community Foundation, said local foundation spokeswoman Annie Koppel Van Hanken.

Kallsnick said she has received grants in the past, but she is especially excited about this one.

“My whole life I have either taken art classes or taught art. When my friends couldn’t wait for summer to sleep late and hang out at the pool, I would take art lessons at the Memphis Academy of Arts. I’m originally from Memphis,” she said.

“All of my classes referred to a lot of the old masters’ works, including my art history classes. These were from the ones at the University of Oklahoma, where I was an art major.”

Byrd Middle School art teacher Fran Kallsnick (in front of her students’ works) said she has waited a long time to take a dream trip to Italy.

Kallsnick went back to Memphis last summer and saw the academy’s Medici family exhibit. She learned about the family’s influence on the art world, its contribution to Florence and the city becoming the capital of the art world.

“That exhibit stirred an interest in me to focus on their family,” she said.

Thinking ahead to the next school year, Kallsnick said, “I can’t wait to take many, many pictures to bring back and share with my students. We study some art history, especially in eighth grade. They get very enthusiastic when I teach history about a topic. Hopefully, I can get them excited about the Medici contributions and the art world once they see what I have seen.”

Kallsnick, now in her 11th year at Byrd, has taken advantage over the years of visiting family to expand her art knowledge.

“I have been to museums in many places around this country. I have a sister in New York, so I have been to all the museums there; of course, the ones in Memphis, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I’ve been to San Francisco museums and, because I have a sister in Dallas, I’ve gone several years to the museums in Ft. Worth. I have a son in Chicago, so I have been to the Art Institute of Chicago on several occasions,” she said.

Kallsnick’s dream to travel to Italy to study art began about a year ago when she learned of another Tulsa Public School teacher who received a grant to go to Italy.

While in Italy, Kallsnick plans trips to Rome, Florence, Venice, Como and side excursions around the country.

Kallsnick’s husband will accompany her on the trip.

Kallsnick said that even though she applied for the Funds for Teachers grant, she was surprised when she learned she was among those selected.

“I would never be able to afford a trip like this without the grant,” she said.

Parkway Teachers To Go Globetrotting On BPS Grants

Hands-on experiences are ideal when it comes to educating students. Come this summer, 47 Boston public school teachers, who were awarded grants, will get to visit the lands they’ve talked about in social studies classes, educate students in far-away lands, take seminars to improve their teaching and also hopefully do some sightseeing on their own time.

Elizabeth Rendon of West Roxbury is headed to Ghana in West Africa to learn about the nation’s culture, history, people and education system. Rendon will be joined by Michelle Pless-Joseph, who wrote a joint proposal for the grant. The two chose Ghana because it’s an integral part of Boston’s social studies curriculum in the first grade. They will be developing a social studies, science, art and language arts curriculum while in Ghana and afterwards.

“This trip will deepen our awareness of Ghana, as well as help us develop an understanding and respect for Ghana’s culture,” said Rendon, a first-grade teacher at the Mattapan Early Education Center. “There is a saying that a person cannot teach what he or she doesn’t know and cannot lead where she or he will not go. We look forward to going to Ghana so that we can teach and lead more effectively.”

The pair expect to visit Ghana’s capital, Accra, along with slave castles, crafts villages, along with the country’s rainforest and desert.

Rendon and Piess-Joseph gained their grant through the Boston Public School Fund for Teachers, which is run by Boston Plan for Excellence and the BPS. This is the second year that the partnership has given grants to BPS teachers.

Mary Clark, who teaches a the Haley Elementary School in Roslindale, will be visiting the same continent, but headed to South Africa with colleague Bruce Thatcher. The two will be working together to create a curriculum to improve student’s technology, reading and writing skills.

The duo will start in the town of Dundee and make their way through 16 schools in the very rural area. They’ll also visit Cape Town.

“While there, we’ll not only see how South African schools use AlphaSmart [a portable battery-powered work processor] but also share best practices of theirs and ours,” said Clarke, a computer teacher. “We’ll document lessons learned on the most effective use of low-cost technology to share with our colleagues in Boston when we return.”

Cynthia Paris Jeffries is on her way to Deutscheland, aka Germany, to attend the International Congress for the Study of Child Language at the Freie University.

“In addition to being bilingual and bicultural and English Language Learners, my students suffer from myriad speech-language disorders, such as the inability to comprehend spoken language,” said Roslindale resident Jeffries, a bilingual speech-pathologist at Roxbury’s Tobin K-8 School. “The conference will help me acquire a deeper understanding of the causes and origins of these specific language disorders and learn different models for assisting my students.”

To better understand how she teaches math, Summer Elementary school teacher Ana Vaisenstein of Cambridge will visit Japan to learn how to use the soroban, or Japanese abacus.

“I have always been curious to learn how the Japanese, and Chinese, operate with the abacus,” said Vaisenstein. “In Asia, even though calculators are readily available, the abacus and soroban are still widely used. I am particularly interested in how to use the soroban to teach number sense and relationships among numbers.”

Throughout her stay, Vaisenstein will be photographing how the soroban is used in daily life.

Ohrenberger Elementary School teacher Patricia Dervan won”t be headed to Germany, Ghana, Japan or even across the Charles River, at least not from a grant given by the BPS. Nope, she”s going to stay in Boston and head to a seminar on early child care and education at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center in Beantown.

“I read Dr. Brazelton’s books 30 years ago when I had my first child, and his practical advice helped me with my own six children,” said Dervan, who works with special needs students.

“Most of my students are nonverbal and have special needs in the areas of cognitive, emotional and physical development. This training will help me understand why they act, learn, behave, interact and develop as they do. And that will help me work with their parents.”

How teacher spent summer vacation; new grants send educators to the corners of the world

The Boston Globe
Stephanie Vosk, Globe Correspondent

Suzanne Haile, a special education teacher at Brighton High School, plans to bring to her new classroom at Gardner Elementary in Allston this fall what she learns during a 40-day trip to Mali and Gambia in Africa this summer.

Boston Latin School teacher Son-Mey Chiu, who teaches Chinese language and culture, will bring back to her students what she finds while studying Chinese minorities and Buddhism on a monthlong trip to Southeast Asia.

The two are among 47 Boston public school teachers awarded $172,500 in grants this summer from the Boston Plan for Excellence’s Fund for Teachers program.

The grants will allow the teachers to travel nationally and internationally in ways that will benefit them and their classes.

“Africa’s sort of a dream place,” said Haile, before leaving on her trip earlier this month. “When I heard about the Fund for Teachers program, I thought I’d pick the place I wanted to go the most.”

Haile is studying the art of fabric design and dyeing techniques, and creating a kit for other teachers to use with their students.

Chiu said she heard about the program after two of her colleagues went to China last year, the first year of the fund, after the national Fund for Teachers program approached Boston about taking part.

Though 90 people were awarded grants last year, program director Dotty Engler said the money available this year was for 47, out of 130 applicants.

Though teachers have the opportunity to apply in teams, many more requested individual grants this year, she said.

Individuals could request up to $5,000, Engler said, and each team could request up to $7,500. Applicants had to explain how the trip could benefit their classrooms, their colleagues, and themselves.

“One of the things we really want to know is that this is something they’d love to do but maybe would never be able to afford on their own,” Engler said.

“In some ways, it’s a pragmatic fantasy, something that you really want to do as a professional, but meets the other criteria.”

For Marcia Young, a kindergarten teacher at Joseph Lee Elementary School in Dorchester for 33 years, an interest in knitting sparked her idea for a trip.

Young planned to spend six days learning the ins and outs of knitting in upstate New York, from visiting a sheep farm to dyeing yarn.

“It’s something that I’ve done all my life and enjoyed, so I was hoping that maybe this would be of interest to some of the children,” Young said.

For Young, the lesson will tie in to a Ukrainian folk tale called “The Mitten” that she teaches her students. As the tale tells of a grandmother knitting mittens for her grandchildren, Young often takes out her own knitting needles and explains the process to her students. After her trip, she will have more insight to share.

“By experiencing it, I hopefully can share my enthusiasm with the kids, and they usually get excited if I’m excited about something,” said Young.

Engler said the committee also considers how articulate the applications are, and how much the teachers really seem to want to take the trip.

“It’s the closest thing to being a fairy godmother,” said Engler, “that I’ll probably ever do.”