Thanking Teachers By Awarding $2 Million in Grants for Summer Fellowships

National nonprofit Fund for Teachers believes the key to improving teacher effectiveness lies in asking what teachers need to improve, then funding their individual growth strategies. For Teacher Appreciation Week, Fund for Teachers distributes $2 million in grants to 500+ teachers to narrow achievement gaps and enhance learning in 350 classrooms across the country.

Across the country this week, gift cards, cookies, bouquets and lattés remind teachers that they matter. National nonprofit Fund for Teachers joins the Teacher Appreciation Week celebration by distributing checks totaling $2 million to more than 500 preK-12 teachers for their self-designed summer fellowships.

2013 Houston Fellows

A complete list of grant winners, along with their fellowship descriptions, is available at fundforteachers.org.

Fund for Teachers’ approach to improving teacher effectiveness involves recognizing and rewarding educators’ innovative ideas for improvement. Instead of applying a top-down, unilateral approach to professional development, Fund for Teachers asks individual teachers what they need to succeed. Teachers annually propose solutions for narrowing achievement gaps – theirs or their students’ – by pursuing new behavioral strategies, instructional techniques, curriculum enhancements or scholarly advancement. Fund for Teachers then supports teachers’ growth plans by funding summer odysseys to locations ranging from hometowns to distant continents.

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has awarded $20 million in grants to more than 5,000 preK-12 teachers.

“Effective teachers model for their students a growth mindset of inquiry, engagement, and achievement,” said Karen Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “Fund for Teachers grants represent exemplary educators’ efforts to analyze growth areas, develop strategies for improvement and pursue deeper learning to leverage greater student success.”

When school lets out for the summer, Fund for Teachers grant recipients become the students – conducting field research, volunteering with community organizations, mastering new skills, strengthening command of a subject. Each self-designed fellowship increases teachers’ competency, confidence, and commitment to teaching. Most importantly, these odysseys culminate in broadened perspectives that directly transfer to students, classrooms and school communities.

The online application for 2014 grants is available beginning October 1, 2013. For more information, visit fundforteachers.org.

About Fund for Teachers
Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that impact their practice, students and school communities.

Teachers in the following locations are currently eligible for Fund for Teachers grants: Alabama, Boston, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Minneapolis, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York City, Oakland, Oklahoma, San Francisco, Texas, Washington DC, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Fellows Study Bosnian Genocide

Pius X educators study Bosnian Genocide through Fund for Teachers summer fellowship
Neighboorhood Extra, Lincoln, Nebraska
December 04, 2012 4:33 pm • Article Submitted

This past summer, two Pius X teachers had the extraordinary hands-on opportunity to explore the historic and social impact of the Bosnian Genocide of the 1990s, thanks to a fellowship they received from Fund for Teachers. Through this grant, World Geography teacher Shiela Sievert and English teacher Sandra Sullivan travelled to Croatia and Bosnia to witness firsthand how the Balkan people have dealt with the aftermath of a modern genocide.
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Fellow Moves Audience at Annual Fundraiser

Fund for Teachers annual fundraiser, Food for Thought, was a huge success thanks in great part to the moving speech given by Houston Fellow, Patricia Greenleaf. Watch as Patricia shares her fellowship’s impact on her teaching and the many at-risk students she serves.

What can WE do?

In 2011, Rayna Dineen studied the heritage and strategies of service at India’s renowned Riverside School and Gandhi’s ashram to enrich her school’s service learning program as her Fund for Teachers Fellowship.

She believes citizenship and service can transform the lives of children. A teacher for over 30 years, both in Santa Fe and points across the U.S., Rayna knows education is more than mastering academic knowledge. It is learning to be compassionate, kind citizens and standing up for what you know is right. Principal and co-founder of Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences, Rayna supervises a group of students who call themselves Youth United, who courageously took on the entrenched problem of literacy and asked themselves, “What can WE do?”.

Watch as Rayna shares her vision of education with TedX audiences.

This video originally appeared on TedX’s YouTube channel.

Reanimating Ötzi The Iceman In Forensics Class

This blog post originally appeared on gothamschools.org, where she and other Fund for Teachers shared their summer fellowship experiences.

Forensics is a relatively new science course with limited curriculum available. For the last three years, I have been teaching a course I developed from scratch, and I am always looking for new and interesting ways to engage students. This summer, my search took me to Ötzi the Iceman, one of the most significant discoveries in forensic science.

Ötzi the Iceman comes from a distant and mysterious past. Twenty years ago, he was pulled out of the Alpine glacial ice in almost perfect condition, complete with clothes, tools, and visible tattoos. And there are unanswered questions surrounding his death, which took place thousands of years ago. He was originally thought to have been a lost herder that took a fatal wrong turn in the snowy Alps. But recent evidence points to a more sinister explanation, making Ötzi the earliest human for whom we have direct evidence of a possible murder.
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Bronx teachers become students in other countries

This article originally appeared on nydailynews.com.

CORINNE LESTCH
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Some teachers can still enjoy their summer vacations – in the classroom.

Fourteen lucky Bronx educators embarked on international trips that took them as far away as Japan, France and Thailand to bring back fresh, new ideas to the classroom through a program called Fund for Teachers.

“I’m so grateful that I was able to gain this wealth of knowledge and firsthand experience of all these historical sites that I’m teaching about,” said Kathleen Kennedy, a global history and art teacher at West Bronx Academy for the Future in Fordham. “It really gave me more energy and new ideas, so I’m not coming back with the same old thing I’ve done in the past.”

Kennedy, 28, spent two weeks during the summer taking art and architecture workshops at the studio Atelier Alupi and Musee d’Orsay in Paris. She also visited the Louvre, Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres and Palace of Versailles, with the goal of linking art and history for her students.

Kathleen Kennedy at the Louvre.

“I plan to introduce a similar workshop with my students,” she said. “How can observation help us to understand history? How can observation help us to look at artwork?”

Fund for Teachers chose educators from all over the country, and awarded $5,000 per individual or $10,000 per team to travel to 124 countries this summer.

Birmingham Teachers Want Students to Bite into Books

PBS’ Southern Education Desk
by Erica Lembo

It’s a new year at Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School in Birmingham— and students are in for a surprise. Thanks to their teachers, they’ll get to spend an entire year learning about creatures that have taken popular culture by storm — vampires.  Through a Fund For Teachers grant, LaVerne McDonald, Phylecia Ragland and Stephen Howard traveled to England, Ireland and Scotland over the summer to visit historic sites associated with Western Literature’s vampire legends.  And they hope what they learned will inspire their students to read. Continue reading

Grant Program Funds Teachers to Travel the World and Develop New Lessons

This article originally appeared online in the T.H.E. Journal.

Operating in 36 states, Fund For Teachers has given more than $17.8 million in grant money since 2001, sending educators around the world to develop lessons on technology, STEM, and other topics.

By Kim Fortson
07/23/12

In 2010, something unusual happened at the Boston Community Leadership Academy. Students, claiming to take a restroom break, began skipping class. Rather than footing it to the typical high school hooky locales–the parking lot or the nearby convenience store–BCLA students steered their way toward Megan Baird’s ninth-grade Algebra I classroom.

Word had gotten out that Baird was starting up her “rhythm wheel” lessons and students crowded the doorway to see what all the fuss was about. Inside, Baird’s students clapped their hands and tapped out salsa rhythms on their desks, even danced, all the while internalizing knowledge of measure counts they would later use to solve problems involving the lowest common multiples. They were doing math and, perhaps more importantly, they were having fun.

Baird’s lesson plan stemmed from a two-week cultural tour of Cuba she took in the summer of 2010 with English teacher Elizabeth Lambert, with whom she has shared a classroom for five years. The trip to Cuba—and the lesson plan—was the result of receiving a fellowship from the national nonprofit Fund For Teachers (FFT).

“When you learn something in a vacuum, you haven’t really learned it,” Baird said over Skype from Ecuador, where she has spent the last year teaching English to adults. “You need to learn in relation to the world. Math is the [subject] where kids always ask, ‘Where am I ever going to use this?’ Any time you can say, ‘Look, even when salsa dancing you can recognize an eight-beat rhythm,’ it’s a good thing.”

It’s this type of thinking FFT seeks to reward. Since it was founded in 2001, FFT has given approximately 5,000 teachers more than $17.8 million in grant money–$5,000 for individual fellowships and $10,000 for teams–sending instructors around the world to further their educations in hopes they will impart what they’ve learned once back in the classroom.

“If a teacher is excited about their own learning and their own subject, that translates,” said FFT Executive Director Karen Kovach-Webb.

In 2011, the organization sent more than 400 teachers from 36 states on projects that involved everything from studying the Ottoman Empire and Islamic architecture in Turkey to kayaking down the Mississippi River collecting water samples and observing the role rivers play in shaping community culture.

“There’s always some [projects] where I think, ‘Oh my gosh, who would have thought of that?” Kovach-Webb said.

Teaching Teachers the Technology
Over the course of a decade, Kovach-Webb has observed that proposals often follow current events. After Sept. 11, many teachers asked for fellowships tailored toward analyzing life and religion in the Middle East; more recent requests involve environmental concerns like water scarcity and energy efficiency. Technology is also at the forefront of today’s grant topics.

Last year, Mary Patterson and Doreen Jarvis, two middle school science curriculum specialists for Texas’s Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, attended the World Congress in Intelligent Control and Automation in Taipei, Taiwan, followed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Academy, to bolster their knowledge of the field. Prior to their trip, Patterson and Jarvis spearheaded after-school robotics programs for their district, using them as a way to encourage their sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders to pursue STEM careers.

“It’s just amazing to see how their personalities change,” Jarvis said of her students active in the program. “Their confidence [increases]. Sometimes they’re just different students in a different setting and excel in that kind of environment.”

Patterson and Jarvis utilize the program as training for the All-Earth Ecobot Challenge, a competition in which students utilize math, physics, and computer science skills to program NXT robots to perform everyday environmental tasks, such as placing items in a recycling bin.

The teachers initially pitched a visit to a family-operated robotics factory in Japan but, 10 days prior to their anticipated grant approval, the Tohoku earthquake, and resulting tsunami, struck the country and Patterson and Jarvis had to quickly re-write their proposal. The conference in Taiwan offered a glimpse into other countries’ involvement in robotics; the Carnegie Mellon program acted as a boot camp to bring the two up to speed on the intricacies of programming.

“Normally in an after-school program kids never let us touch a robot, they don’t let us near it–they do everything,” Patterson laughed. “[Carnegie Mellon] gave us a crash course in a lot of programming we taught at our summer camp.”

Both teachers have used the experience as a launch pad to more solidly academic pursuits. Jarvis enrolled in STEM course workshops this summer while Patterson recently received the NASA Summer of Inspiration Grant, which will allow her to start a monthly girls-only robotics camp during the school year, as well as provide an in-service teacher to help out.

Support Systems
Kovach-Webb said one of her greatest disappointments with FFT is the money earmarked–but not used–for regions that teachers do not apply for.

“I have more money to give out,” she said. “Apply!”

FFT offers extensive support for applicants, including a webinar series and a program in which they pair past recipients with applicants in areas of the same subject matter. If a teacher isn’t awarded a grant the first year he or she applies, FFT provides feedback on the application and encourages them to try again.

Baird, Jarvis, and Patterson agree that, while the process is intense, it’s worth it.

“In a culture now where blaming teachers for what is going wrong is more important than honoring teachers for what is going on in the classroom, I recommend [FFT] for everyone. We need a little support sometimes,” Baird said. She advises future applicants to set out a schedule and blocks of time in order to complete the application, noting that they don’t have to fill out the sections in order.

Kovach-Webb stresses that if a good enough case is made, teachers’ proposals will be funded.

“Dream it and tell us,” she said. “We’ll send you.”

About the Author

Kim Fortson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.

Baird studied Cuban salsa dancing to develop the rhythm wheels lesson while Lambert researched the politically charged verse common in Cuban poetry and musical lyrics. The experience re-energized the way the two connected with their students and organized lessons in the classroom.