Virginia Lombard: East is East and West is West and here the twain shall meet

Alexandra Bowers, The Charlestown Bridge

When Charlestown resident and teacher Virginia Lombard returns to Charlestown High School in the fall, she’ll have quite a tale to tell about her summer vacation.

Lombard will travel for three weeks in mainland China, courtesy of a grant from the Fund for Teachers, a Boston Plan for Excellence program that funds summer travel and study for Boston public school teachers.

“The Fund for Teachers is free-form,” said Lombard. “You make your own trip and find your own connections.” She added that sometimes an idea will come from someone’s trip of a previous year, and that teachers often find connections through local residents.

Lombard, who teaches Java programming and Web design, hopes to study how computer technology is used at several Chinese high schools, and to establish relationships that will continue after her return to the U.S.

For Lombard one reason she decided to apply for the grant is that Charlestown High School is reorganizing its class structure. The emphasis across the school will be on small learning communities to focus on the skills that each group of students needs to concentrate on.

Lombard will be in the bilingual unit, which teaches English skills to Chinese and Hispanic students. Roughly 15 percent of Charlestown High School students are in the Chinese bilingual program.

“There are a lot of students who have been in the U.S. for only one or two years, and they need the ESL classes,” said Lombard, adding that there are large groups of students from Hong Kong and from the nearby province of Guandong.

“It’s primarily Chinese and some Spanish-speaking students that sign up for Web design,” said Lombard, adding that some elective courses, including the ones she teaches, will be open to the whole school.

Lombard used the tools of her trade to set up her trip. She surfed the Web to find the sites of Chinese high schools and then wrote emails to explain her goals and set up her visits to the schools. All the schools have staff members who are fluent in English, which has made the planning easy.

“I talked with [the schools], and they said they’re advanced in what they’re doing,” said Lombard. “I’m looking to see what they’re doing with technology in the schools. I want them to show me and talk about things.”

Lombard will travel in China for three weeks, leaving on July 28. She will visit high schools in four cities – Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an and Chongqing. There will be time before her return for a boat cruise down the Yangzi River to see the Three Gorges before a giant dam under construction fills them in.

In addition to visiting high schools and speaking with teachers, Lombard hopes to learn about the culture and diversity of China as she travels through the country. She also has a list of sites to visit that includes the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the terra-cotta tombs of the First Emperor.

Lombard won’t be alone during her trip. Her niece, Caroline Turner, is a junior at Winchester High School. Turner is also the sports editor of her high school newspaper. When Lombard asked her if she would like to visit China, Turner’s reaction was immediate.

“She was so excited that she had her passport in the works the next day,” said Lombard.

Both Lombard and Turner are learning Mandarin Chinese using an audio foreign language course. “I’m trying to teach myself Mandarin. I drive around and people think I’m talking to myself,’ said Lombard.

Next week she’ll get a chance to find out if she’s pronouncing things correctly or not. And when she returns to her home in Charlestown, she’ll have even more chances to practice with her students as she bridges the digital divide between East and West.

Fellow Testimonial – Lori Davis

Good Day Tulsa: 82 Tulsa teachers return to the classroom this year with fellowship experiences

Fund For Teachers Announces 2005 Fellows

HOUSTON (April, 2005) — Fund For Teachers (FFT) recently recognized its 2005 fellows at a special award ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel. Ninety-six teachers from charter schools, private schools and ten different school districts from the Houston-area received grants for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

Teachers were honored April 4, 2005 and were awarded grants to pursue their independent projects. 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.

Teachers from the following school districts were awarded grants: Katy ISD; Houston ISD; Spring Branch ISD; Conroe ISD; Ft. Bend ISD; Katy ISD; Alief ISD; Cy-Fair ISD; Klein ISD; and Aldine ISD.

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.

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. FFT impacts teachers, classrooms, schools and students. Founded by Apache Corp. Chairman Raymond Plank, the foundation’s enrichment fund is supported by individual and corporate donors.

Fellow Testimonial – Sharon Felty

Traveling Teachers Maximize Their Summer Off

Johnston Grier, South End News, Boston, MA

When kids return to Boston Public Schools (BPS) this fall they’ll share stories about what they did this summer. They won’t be the only ones at school with stories of visiting far away places, learning new and exciting things. This summer, 94 Boston Public School teachers – including several from South End schools – received grants from the Boston Plan for Excellence. Between them, they will visit 24 countries and 17 states, all in the name of professional development.

Established in 1984, the Boston Plan for Excellence is a nonprofit foundation working exclusively with BPS. This year it began a partnership with the National Fund For Teachers, founded by philanthropist Raymond Plank in 1998 to provide recognition and opportunities to educators. The fund’s new Fund For Teachers/Boston, has distributed nearly $250,000 in grant money for teachers to travel and study this summer. Teachers design their own trips; the fund provides between $1,200 and $7,500 to cover expenses such as airfare and lodging.

To apply for a grant, teachers must have been in the BPS system for at least three years, intend to continue teaching, and have spent at least 50 percent of their time in direct instruction.

Keri Purple and Amelia Greiner from Newmarket’s Mason Elementary School each received $7,500 from the fund to travel to Ghana this summer. Purple has been teaching at Mason for five years; Greiner has taught Mason first-graders for three years.

Purple and Greiner have been using a unit on Ghana from the Boston Children’s Museum to teach social studies. “It’s a really good kit,” said Greiner, but “some of it had started to get a little bit outdated.”

“When we first heard about the program, it was like, right away, hey, we should go to Ghana,” said Purple.

In their application, Purple and Greiner proposed to use their trip to combine the social studies unit they already teach with two additional units they teach separately. Explained Purple, “we tried to pull in two other units that we could teach through an interdisciplinary approach to the kids. So we’ll also be…comparing/contrasting our country to Ghana. That way they also learn about our own country and our own community. And we also have a large unit in science on living things. So we are hoping to go on a safari and see the animals that are there.”

Purple and Greiner see their grant as an opportunity to provide more substantive material to their students. “I’m looking forward to having those three units put into one so that not only are they condensed but they’re more meaningful,” said Greiner.

Besides going on a safari, Purple and Greiner are planning to explore Ghana’s capital city, Accra, and view monuments, castles and other historical sites to get a feel for life in this country of over 20 million people. And while they won’t be able to visit a Ghanaian school – kids there are on vacation, too – they will meet up with some local teachers.

Sandra Garzon is also taking a trip overseas this summer courtesy of the Fund For Teachers. Garzon has worked as a BPS speech therapist for 13 years, and has been at Blackstone Elementary School since 1994. She received approximately $2,800 from the fund to travel to Barcelona.

Garzon specializes in helping students who speak Spanish as a first language who have developed a stutter. Stuttering is not an uncommon problem among young children who have a great deal of language demands. Often they will repeat words as they struggle to express themselves. “What we try to do is protect the child, their environment, and make the child understand that he has all the time to express their feelings and thoughts,” said Garzon.

In Barcelona, Garzon is visiting the Spanish Stuttering Foundation, an organization founded in 2002 to promote awareness of stuttering and develop methods for helping the stutterers and their families cope. Garzon hopes to improve her own techniques.

When Garzon heard about the grants offered by Fund For Teachers she jumped at the opportunity to apply. “It was something that I was going to do anyway,” said Garzon of her trip to Barcelona, “but I found this, and I think it is a very genuine effort by Fund For Teachers to help people who are interested in expanding their knowledge.”

Garzon will use what she has learned during her visit to the Spanish Stuttering Foundation to develop a checklist and information packet to help Boston Public School teachers identify students who are developing a stutter. “Some of the teachers, they don’t know what to do when a child stutters, how to address the feelings of the child. So with that checklist and package of information for teachers it will help me to identify kids that are at risk,” she said.

In nearby Chinatown, four Quincy Elementary School teachers received grants: Dona Cavanaugh, Heidi Thomas, Ann Whaley-Tobin and Cindy Wilson. They are attending classes at the Teaching of Reading Institute at Columbia University in New York City.

Dottie Engler, the Fund For Teachers/Boston site coordinator, sees the grants as more than just a chance for professional development. “The time is so right to just show appreciation for teachers and to say, “Hey here’s a chance, take wing, $5,000, $7,500. What are you thinking? What is it you thing you need that you can bring back to the school?”

That is really the core idea behind the Fund For Teachers program. Providing teachers with the opportunity to improve kids’ classroom experience rewards teachers’ commitment, recognizes them as an integral part of the education process, and allows them to renew themselves’ as educators.

Fund For Teachers/Boston is a pilot program. The Boston Plan for Excellence will decide in the fall whether to continue the program next year. Already, Dottie Engler is seeing the program’s positive effects. “The real interesting thing about this program is that simply its existence elevates people.”

Eight Teachers In Fenway Schools Win Grants For Summer Rravel And Study

The Fenway News, Boston, MA

A dream itinerary for any traveler, that dream will come true for Farragut Elementary School teachers Barbara Casserly and Leslie McGowan, thanks to a grant from the Boston Plan For Excellence (BPE). They’ll follow in the footsteps of Isabella Stewart Gardner this summer, touring sites across Italy that she visited in collecting art for her museum in the Fenway. Along the way, the teachers will do some collecting themselves: photos, videos, sketches, interviews, and artifacts to bring the museum’s history alive for their students in the fall.

Ms. Casserly and Ms. McGowan are just two of 94 teachers in the Boston Public Schools who have won a grant to travel and study this summer. More than 300 teachers in the Boston Public Schools applied for these first-ever grants, and BPE awarded almost $250,000 to individual teachers and teams of teachers who will visit a total of 24 foreign countries and at least 17 states this summer.

Three teachers at another Fenway school, Boston Arts Academy (BAA), also won grants. Humanities teacher Sonya Brown and Spanish instructor Cara Livermore-Alba will take a two-week course, Afro-Cuban Dance and Percussion, in Mantanzas, Cuba, and then spend a third week touring and researching Cuban history and identity. What they learn will be incorporated into their instruction next fall – their newly acquired skills in dance and music, their first-hand knowledge of the Cuban culture, and the extensive primary source material they hope to collect.

BAA’s visual arts teacher Beth Balliro will head to Mexico for three weeks of research on historically significant murals in Cacaxtla, Ixmiquilpan, Mexico City, and Queretaro. Her goal is to develop a mural painting curriculum for grade 10 students, incorporate a unit on Mexican art into the school’s art history course, and brush up on her Spanish.

Lynn Burke and Rachel Skerritt, English teachers at Boston Latin School, are off to Hong Kong., Beijing, and Shanghai with a video camera. Too many of her their students, they say, have little knowledge of this area, which hinders their understanding of the works of Chinese and Chinese-American authors. They hope to create a documentary video and collect materials for their classes. Tobin K-8 teacher Ana Rosa will team with Hennigan Elementary School’s Ana Patricia Montoya to tour rain forests, wildlife reserves, and other sites in Costa Rica and develop a unit on ecosystems. The two will also visit schools to start a pen-pal exchange.

No matter their destination, these teachers will certainly bring back experiences to enrich their students in the Fenway’s schools.

Fenway Teachers Who Have Won Grants from the Boston Plan for Excellence:

Farragut Elementary School
Teacher: Barbara Casserly and Leslie McGowan
Project: Retrace Isabella Stewart Gardner’s footsteps through Italy

Tobin K-8
Teacher: Ana Rosa
Project: Study Costa Rica’s diverse tropical habitats to develop new science units

Boston Arts Academy
Teacher: Beth Balliro
Project: Visit historically significant murals in Mexico
Teacher: Sonya Brown and Cara Livermore-Alba
Project: Study folkloric dance and music in Cuba

Boston Latin School
Teacher: Lynn Burke and Rachel Skerritt
Project: Tour and create a video of Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai

13 Local Teachers Win Grants For Summer Travel, Study

Sandra Storey, Gazette Staff
Jamaica Plain, MA

Jamaica Plain public school teachers have been awarded grants for summer travel and study; it was recently announced by the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE), which gave the grants through the Fund for Teachers (FFT).

Thirteen of the 94 Boston Public Schools (BPS) teachers chosen to receive part of the $249,733 in grants live in JP. More winning teachers come from JP than from any other community.

JP resident teachers who will be able to travel and study this summer, often along with other teachers or students, and their projects, include:

Beth Balliro will visit historically significant murals in Mexico and learn of the impact of mural art.

Sabra Brown will take a course in fashion design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Lynn Burke will visit and create a video of Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

Kevin Freeley will travel to Hebel Province with the Inner-City Kids in China Program.

Kara Lysy will visit Cape Verde to learn about its culture.

Jennifer Miller will attend an international literacy conference in Havana and study Cuba’s literacy campaign.

Lucy Montgomery will travel to Kenya to research and write about the influence of Islam on Africa and China.

Ingrid Roche will take part in an Arabic language studies program in Morocco. Carla Ryder will explore the origins of the Olympics in Greece.

Paul Sedgwick will take Akonting (banjo) lessons in Gambia and create a drama unit.

Rosalba Solis, who teaches at the Hernandez, will tour Mexico to focus on ancient civilizations and take a music course there.

Kathleen Wright, a teacher at the Kennedy, will attend the Family Nature Camp at the College of the Atlantic.

Alice Yong will investigate Native American culture and other aspects of the Southeast US.

Five JP schools had teachers who were among those chosen, including the Hennigan, Hernandez, Kennedy and Young Achievers (with New Boston Pilot Middle School) elementary and K-8 schools and English High School.

More than 300 BPS teachers applied for a grant, either as individuals or as members of a teacher team, and grants range from $1,200 to $7,500.

FFT/Boston is affiliated with the national FFT foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of school-teachers and students by providing recognition and opportunities for renewal to outstanding educators.

“We all expect teachers to use their own experiences to enrich their work with students,” said BPE executive director Ellen Guiney. “There is no better way than travel to learn and grow and deepen one’s knowledge. We are thrilled to be able to offer these extraordinary opportunities for professional and personal renewal to Boston’s very hard-working teachers.”

The grants will fund projects teachers have designed themselves. Twenty-two recipients won grants for individual projects, while 72 recipients were funded for a project they designed as a teacher team. In all, the 94 grant recipients will visit a total of 24 foreign countries and at least 17 states this summer.

FFT is the brainchild of Apache Corporation Chairman Raymond Plank, who started the foundation after years of educational philanthropic endeavors. Already established in six US cities, FFT expanded to Boston this year. In Boston, the program is administered by the BPE; these are the first grants BPE has awarded.

Established in 1984, the BPE has been the district’s primary partner in improving instruction for the last eight years. Led by a volunteer board of trustees, the nonprofit organization also manages with the district an independent teacher preparation and certification program and hosts Principal For A Day each fall.