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.

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.