Individual and team Fund for Teacher grants open to educators

The Chicago Foundation of Education (CFE) is now offering $5,000 individual and $10,000 team Fund for Teachers grants to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers. The grants are to recognize and reward teachers who are pursuing opportunities around the globe that can then improve their classrooms at home.

Past recipients have traveled to South Africa to study Apartheid and to the Peruvian rainforest to participate in a conservation project. Teachers who are looking to fund an experience that will impact their practice, their students, and their school communities should apply for this CFE grant.

The grants are open to all pre-kindergarten through grade 12 CPS certified teachers who have a minimum of three years experience. Applicants must spend at least 50 percent of their time in the classroom.

Teachers can apply for an FFT grant once every five years. Applications are now available online at All applications must be submitted online by 5 p.m. Friday, January 31. More information can be obtained by calling 312-670-2323.

Founded in 1985, the CFE is dedicated to improving and enhancing public education in Chicago. Research has shown that teacher quality is the most important factor for a student’s achievement outside of the home so the CFE works to help Chicago’s teachers.

Besides FFT grants the CFE also offers Teachers Network Leadership Institute, Study Group Grants and Small Grants. This year the Foundation hopes to award 40 FFT grants to CPS teachers.

HISD Gives Thanks to Community Partners for Helping Children

Four new partners inducted into district’s Partnership Hall of Fame

Four companies that have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help Houston’s children succeed were honored during a special ceremony on November 20, as HISD began celebrating Thanksgiving by thanking its community leaders.

Companies committed to helping Houston students succeed were recognized at the HISD Partners Hall of Fame breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel, and four of the district’s partners were specially commended for their outstanding support of education.

“Education is a big job, and HISD cannot do it alone,” noted Director of Community Partnerships Lucy Bremond. “Our partners help us to increase student achievement by providing their resources and their expertise. Our partners help our students realize the endless possibilities in their lives by being there for them and showing that they care—and that is why we are here today.”

As the largest school district in Texas and the largest employer in Houston, HISD depends on strong partnerships with local businesses to provide extra resources to help children, more than 80 percent of whom live at or near the poverty line.

HISD Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett, Board of Education President Manuel Rodríguez, and Executive General Manager of Strategic Partnerships Gasper Mir were present to honor corporate and community partners for their generous contributions to schools and students by inducting them into the HISD Partners Hall of Fame. Representatives from more than 350 corporate and community organizations along with 250 school representatives attended the event, which was emceed by Yolanda Green, the community relations director and host of Outlook Houston for KHCW-TV, Channel 39.

“HISD schools and students have benefited greatly from the generosity of services, resources, and volunteers of partners, both community and business,” Mir said. “We are honored to announce HISD’s 2007 Hall of Fame partners for their extraordinary commitment to education.”

The four organizations honored this year were: Devon Energy, Fund for Teachers, Memorial Hermann, and Schlumberger. Representatives from each organization were on hand to accept etched vases in recognition of their contributions, and each was given the opportunity to make remarks. Descriptions of their partnerships and comments from each representative are below.

Left: “We are a proud partner of HISD,” said Devon Energy Vice President of the Gulf Division and General Manager Tony Vaughn. “(Working with the district) couldn’t be more rewarding-hopefully for the kids, but especially for our employees.”

Right: “Organizations typically do things in partnerships because they can do things better together than apart, and that’s certainly how Memorial Hermann feels about our partnership with HISD,” said Memorial Hermann Healthcare System Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness and Management Carol Paret. “Providing health care to students gives (educators) the foundation that they can…(use to) teach.”

Devon Energy, one of the world’s leading independent oil and natural gas producers, has shown its exceptional dedication to helping HISD students excel in the classroom. Devon employees have spent more than 2,300 hours volunteering to mentor students, plant trees for schools, provide school supplies for children in need, and much more. Devon has also contributed more than $500,000 to help fund college scholarships and supplemental educational programs at schools.

“We are a proud partner of HISD,” said Devon Energy Vice President of the Gulf Division and General Manager Tony Vaughn. “I think you saw a couple of examples of some of the close relationships we have in the community. I’d like to recognize and thank some of the employees and the volunteers associated with Communities in Schools and Junior Achievement. Those are a couple of the organizations that we spend a lot of time with, and it couldn’t be more rewarding-hopefully for the kids, but especially for our employees.”

Left: “On behalf of the board of directors of Fund for Teachers and all of our supporters here and around the nation, thank you,” said Fund for Teachers Executive Director Karen Kovach-Webb. “We appreciate the recognition.”

Right: “It’s a real honor to accept this award,” said Senior Vice President of Technology and Strategy for Schlumberger Limited Rod Nelson. “We appreciate the opportunity to partner with HISD to raise the level of awareness of the importance of mathematics, science, and technology education. We think these areas are critical, and we’re very happy that HISD agrees with us.”

The Memorial Hermann partnership began in 1996 with the creation of the Memorial Hermann Health Centers for Schools program. The Health Centers for Schools come to the aid of 12,000 students attending 16 schools in the Luther Burbank, James Hogg, and Jane Long Middle School feeder patterns by providing access to health care at no cost to them or their families. This is frequently the only source of regular health care for children without medical-insurance coverage. Students access the clinics to get immunizations to attend schools, while older students get their general physicals for sports and other activities. An on-site dental van is on location for 30 days four times a year. A dentist and support staff provide screenings, cleanings, fillings, sealants, simple extractions, and education.

“Organizations typically do things in partnerships because they can do things better together than apart, and that’s certainly how Memorial Hermann feels about our partnership with HISD,” said Memorial Hermann Healthcare System Vice President of Clinical Effectiveness and Management Carol Paret. “Providing health care to students gives (educators) the foundation that they can take and (use to) teach. Can you imagine trying to learn your times tables with an earache? Or missing multiple days of school because your asthma is not under control? These are the fundamentals that we can give our kids, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are more than 100,000 kids in Houston/Harris County who still don’t have access to health care, so our partnerships need to expand—but you know what? Working together, we can get there.”

Fund for Teachers has been a partner with HISD since 2002. It was established in 1998 by Raymond Plank, founder and chairman of Apache Corporation. Each year, the fund gives grants of up to $5,000 to educators for summer training and enrichment activities. The grants are intended to rejuvenate teachers’ passions for learning and teaching through sabbaticals, so that they return to the classroom with newly gained knowledge and enthusiasm to share with students. Some teachers have traveled to destinations across the globe, while others have pursued projects closer to home.

Fund for Teachers works with the HISD Foundation to recognize HISD teachers, and in five years the organization has awarded $780,500 in grants to 217 HISD teachers for professional development.

“On behalf of the board of directors of Fund for Teachers and all of our supporters here and around the nation, thank you,” said Fund for Teachers Executive Director Karen Kovach-Webb. “We give grants to teachers in cities around the country, and I work in school districts and in schools in all of those cities, and I have to say it is good to be back in Houston. We appreciate the recognition.”

Oilfield services provider Schlumberger’s partnership with HISD was forged more than 10 years ago. Many of Schlumberger’s partnership activities have included schools in the Stephen F. Austin, Jesse Jones, Barbara Jordan Sharpstown, Ross Sterling, Phillis Wheatley, and Jack Yates High feeder patterns. Backpacks filled with school supplies were given to students at Louisa May Alcott, Lucian Lockhart, Lora Peck, and Garden Villas Elementary Schools. Because of an early interest in environmental education, Schlumberger created a garden at Peck so that students there could grow vegetables and then eat them or share them with their neighbors.

Robotics clubs have been assisted by Schlumberger employees, as well. Schlumberger underwrote the cost for a science lab, lab coats, robotic materials, and training for students at Valley West Elementary School. Schlumberger engineers have participated in engineering month by making presentations to students to stimulate their interest in the engineering and science professions. The company also sponsored the Rice Engineering program for Austin High School and cohosted the Schlumberger Pre-College Summer Science Institute, a four-week summer science camp for middle-school students.

“It’s a real honor to accept this award and to be associated with HISD and these other great organizations,” said Senior Vice President of Technology and Strategy for Schlumberger Limited Rod Nelson. “But most of all, we appreciate the opportunity to partner with HISD to raise the level of awareness of the importance of mathematics, science, and technology education. We think these areas are critical, and we’re very happy that HISD agrees with us.”

Hall of Fame organizations recognized in previous years for their partnerships are AIM Investments/AIM Foundation, Amerigroup, Baker Botts LLP, Baylor College of Medicine Teen Health Clinics, CenterPoint Energy, ChevronTexaco, Crescent Real Estate Equities, ExxonMobil, Gallery Furniture, GE Elfun, Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, H-E-B, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Houston Rockets and Comets, IBM, Jacobs Engineering Group, Jewish Women International, Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas, the Junior League of Houston, Marathon Oil Company, the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Shell Oil Company, Tenneco, Washington Mutual, and Williams.

To find out how your organization or business can partner with HISD, contact the Strategic Partnerships office at 713-556-7200.

Fund Run finances inspiration for teachers

Flori Meeks, Chronicle Correspondent

When Jo Ann Arlitt feels stress coming on, she likes to look at the photos from her summer trip to Greece.

The Spring Forest Middle School teacher and colleague Teresa Cardwell attended a creativity seminar there with a $7,500 grant from the national Fund for Teachers organization.

“It has helped me see things from a different perspective,” said Arlitt, who teaches eighth-grade math. “It was just incredible.”

Fund For Teachers, 2000 Post Oak Blvd., gives teachers grants for summer professional development opportunities.

Art teacher Susan Smith of Aldine’s Carroll Academy used an organization grant to learn to create mosaics in Italy last July with Carroll German teacher Birgit Langhammer.

“We are still kind of in shock that we were able to do this,” Smith said. “Learning a new medium is so eye-opening and overwhelming. It’s almost like being a kid again.”

During the last five years, Fund for Teachers has awarded more than 2,000 grants.

The recipients include 417 Houston-area teachers representing 286 schools.

The nonprofit organization will strive to raise funds for more grants Saturday when it hosts a Fund Run in uptown Houston.

The event, sponsored by the Galleria Chamber of Commerce, will include a 5-kilometer run/walk and a 1-kilometer Kids K race. The top male and female finishers in the 5K events will receive roundtrip domestic tickets from Southwest Airlines.

Fund for Teachers launched the run last year.

“It was just a way of introducing ourselves to the broader city,” said Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director. “We want to make sure every teacher knows about us.”

The run went so well the organization decided to make an annual fund-raiser.

This year, Bayou City Road Runners is administering it.

Fund for Teachers’ grants are $5,000 for individuals and $7,500 for groups.

“One teacher can affect 3,000 students,” said Kovach-Webb, who lives in the Memorial area. “They’re being totally re-charged.”

The program has sent teachers to the Galapagos Islands, Auschwitz, the Freedom Trail in Boston, Vietnam, Space Camp and the Antarctica, among other spots.

Arlitt’s and Cardwell’s initial idea was to ask Fund for Teachers to help them attend a summer math workshop.

“Then we thought how this is supposed to rejuvenate us, too, as individuals,” said Arlitt, who teaches eighth grade. “We thought a creativity workshop would help us add something to those mundane lessons and add some zip and pizzazz.”

Fund for Teachers approved their request to attend a workshop in Crete, and the teachers spent nine days there last June.

“This just opened our eyes to another world,” Arlitt said. The workshop students started each day with relaxation exercises, followed by activities designed to strengthen their creative sides.

“Now, it really helps me,” Arlitt said. “I’m having my students do a lot more modeling of things.”

Arlitt is using much of what she learned with her at-risk students.

“It’s really helped us bring this (math comprehension) to students who didn’t think they could do anything,” she said.

Smith said her experience has had an impact in the classroom, too.

She and Langhammer attended a mosaic art school in Italy, where they learned the techniques of Byzantine artists.

Their instructor is one of a handful of people worldwide with the training and expertise to restore mosaics from the third and fourth centuries, Smith said.

“The whole experience was incredible. She was very interesting.”

Now, she said, her students are fascinated with her stories about Italy and her lessons on mosaics.

“When they feel you believe in what you’re doing they learn so much better,” said Smith, who has volunteered to help with the Fund Run.

“Whatever Fund for Teachers wants me to do in the future I’m there because I want other teachers to have this experience.”

‘Fund Run’ benefitting Houston teachers moves to Galleria area

Andrea Sutton

Spending a summer trip in a place like Crete or India might sound like a dream vacation to some people, but for a few local teachers, it became a reality.

Thanks to grants from the Houston-based, nonprofit Fund for Teachers, 94 teachers from 59 area schools were able to participate in self-designed professional development opportunities around the globe during the summer of 2006.

Teresa Cardwell, a seventh-grade math teacher at Spring Forest Middle School, was one of those teachers.

In June, she went to the Greek island of Crete with eighth-grade Spring Forest math teacher Jo Ann Arlitt for a nine-day creativity workshop, in which they explored writing, drawing, photography, map-making and visualization techniques.

But, what did a writing workshop in Crete have to do with teaching math? That’s the question Cardwell had to answer when she applied for the grant that funded her trip.

Other than the fact that many of the first mathematicians came from ancient Greece, she and Arlitt were looking for new ways to teach their at-risk and gifted and talented students, and they believed the program would help.

It did. “As I was thinking and writing I really wasn’t thinking about anything at home,” Cardwell said. “When I came back to school I was totally refreshed and had an open mind about how to teach my children.”

During the first days of the school year, Cardwell was able to incorporate an exercise she did herself on the first day of the workshop into two of her classes, which consisted of students who did not pass the math portion of the TAKS test last year.

She had the students fold and unfold sheets of paper and, within the resulting squares, write down the reasons they thought they couldn’t do math. Then, she told them to mark through each square and write how they could overcome those obstacles. She collected the papers and plans to hand them back at the end of the school year.

The idea to use a writing exercise to help students with math is something she wouldn’t have considered before, she said, but she learned that when things aren’t working a certain way it’s beneficial to try new methods.

The grants are an investment in the teachers, who bring their experiences back to their classrooms, which is an investment in the future, FFT Executive Director Karen Kovach-Webb said.

“We invest money in teachers who are investing their time impacting the lives of our students,” Kovach-Webb said. “They (the students) are our future workforce and the future of the world. The return is so important.”

Community members can help invest in future grant recipients Saturday, Feb. 10, by participating in the second annual Fund for Teachers Fund Run, which is taking place in the Galleria area.

The Fund Run will begin at 8 a.m. with a free Kids K Race, which will be followed by a 5K run/walk at 8:30 a.m. The races will begin at the intersection of Post Oak Boulevard and Ambassador Way. The first place male and female runners will receive roundtrip domestic Southwest Airline tickets.

Registration costs $25 for adults and $15 for participants younger than 18. Proceeds will fund grants for Houston-area teachers. Sign-in and registration will take place from 7-8 a.m. Last year’s run raised $168,000.

FFT is an opportunity for professional development, just as other professionals would have in their given fields, Kovach-Webb said. It also allows teachers to be global citizens and experience other parts of the world.

“It’s an excellent way to get teachers out of the classroom and help them bring the world to the kids,” Johnston Middle School teacher Gail Medina said. “It’s an opportunity for the teachers to be able to experience a life-changing experience and to share with their family, friends, students and coworkers.”

A seventh-grade Texas history teacher, Medina chose to go on a maternal and child health care expedition to India as a volunteer with Earth Watch.

She wanted to learn more about the intriguing culture. What she found there was a new appreciation for living and teaching in America and an understanding of newly immigrated students at Johnston.

When a student from China who didn’t know English came to her class this school year, she understood the anxiety of not knowing a country’s native language. She explained to her students how warm and welcoming people had been to her in India, even though she didn’t know their language, and asked them to be the same to others who are different from them.

While many grant recipients travel across oceans, some going as far south as Antarctica – as one J. Wills Elementary School teacher did – other teachers choose to stay within the borders of the United States.

T. H. Rogers special education teacher Carolyn Johnican went to Atlanta for a week so to attend the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Conference and learn more about the technologies she uses with her students, whom, she says, mean the world to her.

“I was able to go do something for them and bring something back to enhance their opportunities in the classroom,” Johnican said, adding that she’s happy she had the opportunity because many special education teachers have a tendency to feel like they are the least respected in the profession.

The opportunity was like a renewal for special education teachers to her. Johnican is humbled that she and her students were able to benefit from the program.

One of the things she brought back was knowledge about an assistive technology device called the Voice Pal, which allows persons with speech impediments to communicate using pre-recorded messages. She said it allows every student to have a sense of independence.

Although there have been the occasional district and campus development opportunities, nothing has been quite like her experience with FFT.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity to do something that you pick yourself,” she said.

WHAT: Fund for Teachers Fund Run

WHEN: Feb. 10; Sign-in and late registration from 7-8 a.m. Kids K Race begins at 8 a.m. and 5K run/walk at 8:30 a.m.

WHERE: Starting line at the intersection of Post Oak Boulevard and Ambassador Way

HOW MUCH: Registration is $25 for adults and $15 for participants younger than 18. Kids K Race is free.

WHY: Raise funds for grants for local teachers’ summer professional development opportunities.


Houston man makes a difference

H-Texas Magazine

A visionary maverick with a philanthropic soul, Raymond Plank arrived in Houston in the mid 1990s, bringing with him the company he founded in 1954. With the disgrace of Enron still slapping Houstonians daily, Raymond, the chairman of Apache Corporation, is a welcome change.

Early on in the scandal, Raymond said publicly of Enron’s management, “They ought to be breaking rocks in the hot sun.” His blunt, straight talk is just one of the reasons everyone loves Raymond. Growing up on a Minnesota dairy farm, he comments on his formative years by saying, “… the most important influence in my life other than my father was a man named Noah Foss. He was a Latin teacher, a towering figure who inspired, challenged and motivated countless young men at the small country day school that I attended in the 1930s. But for Foss, who gave me the focus and self-respect I needed, I wouldn’t have received an honors score on my college entrance exams. And, almost certainly, I never would have gone to Yale.”

Before Yale, he served his nation as a pilot in WWII. After college, Raymond and two partners began a small accounting services company in Minneapolis. That company became Apache Corporation. Today, Apache has $15.5 billion in assets scattered around the globe. Raymond told Business Week in 2001 one of the secrets of his success, “… when others zig, we’re zagging.”

From his very first paycheck, Raymond set aside money for teachers. He did it as a way of honoring his mother and Noah Foss. His private efforts morphed into a public charity, The Fund for Teachers. It provides grants of up to $5,000 for teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade for sabbaticals of their own design. Last year in Houston alone, 94 teachers from 71 schools received grants. Some of their stories can be found at

When I first met Raymond, he was sporting a bright African knit cap. It was to support another educational effort; this one was half a world away. Springboard – Educating the Future, founded by Raymond and Apache, is currently building 36 schools for girls ages 6-14 in Egyptian villages. They are committed to building 200.

In May 2005, the world learned of this effort when the first ladies of the U.S. and Egypt, Laura Bush and Suzanne Mubarak, visited the first school. It is in Abu Sir, 10 miles south of the Giza Pyramids. The innovative, environmentally friendly design is being replicated for the other schools.

That he would make sure these schools work with the environment is vintage Plank. The Nov. 28, 2005, issue of High Country News says of Raymond, “He’s worked to protect Wyoming landscapes, consulting with a series of governors and working with the Sierra Club… The Ucross Foundation, which he founded, runs a 22,000-acre ranch near Sheridan that’s a model of holistic land management.”

The Ucross Foundation has an artist in residence program. Annie Proulx’s Pulitzer Prize novel, “The Shipping News” and Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas did some of their creative work for the Broadway hit “The Light in the Piazza” at Ucross.

A smaller version is now just up the road from Houston in New Ulm, Texas. In looking for a weekend retreat, Raymond found a beautiful vista with a house that was built in 1853. Rather than tear it down, he has saved Restoration House. Apache makes it available for groups during the day.

Plain words, support for education, respect for the world’s people and the environment are more of the reasons Houston loves Raymond. – Fran Fawcett Peterson H

Galleria Chamber to sponsor family event / Fund Run scheduled for February 2007

Houston Chronicle

The Galleria Chamber of Commerce will serve as the presenting sponsor for the Fund for Teachers’s Fund Run, which is scheduled for Feb. 10, 2007 in the Galleria-area.

The family-friendly event increases community awareness and raises funds for self-designed professional development opportunities for local teachers.

“We are so glad to be partnering with (Fund for Teachers) since they are making a valuable investment in keeping teachers from our community inspired and involved in the classroom,” said Darrell Roth, 2006 chairman of the board, Galleria Chamber of Commerce.

“It is refreshing and gratifying to have a national nonprofit with such strong roots in our neighborhood.”

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers, said she thinks the alliance is a “perfect fit.”

“We feel this is a perfect fit since the (chamber) has a strong commitment to education in the Houston community.”

More than 450 runners took part in the inaugural event in January 2006 at Sam Houston Park downtown, Kovach-Webb said.

The event raised $168,000 for self-designed professional development opportunities for Houston-area teachers, she said.

The Galleria Chamber of Commerce is a business alliance serving the business and cultural interests of their service area which includes The Galleria, Uptown, Greenway Plaza and West Houston.

The Chamber is proud to represent their 750 plus members.

For more information, visit or call 713-296-6127.

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Raymond Plank on Fund for Teachers

Murdoch Pushes To Bridge U.S. – Asia ‘Culture Gap’

Greg Levine

New York – As China and India rise in the 21st century, some say the “culture gap” between the U.S. and the rest of the world could be fatal to its place in the sun.

And as a naturalized American, Rupert Murdoch is keenly aware of the phenomenon. Being Australian-born and well-traveled gives the News Corp. (nyse: NWS – news – people ) chairman and chief executive a global perspective.

And so the billionaire is taking action. In a press release on Tuesday, Murdoch’s media colossus and Jones Apparel Group (nyse: JNY – news – people ) said they’re joining forces to show America the world-in person.

News Corp. and Jones Apparel announced a major grant to Fund For Teachers (FFT), an entity that furnishes “outstanding teachers” with shots at exotic summer learning and exploration.

The two corporations have donated to enable educators from America’s most “global” metropolis, New York City, to study in Asian nations. The hope is that said teachers will be better able to instill, first-hand, a broader understanding of Asia into American students.

With an infusion of $1.5 million, the News Corp. Asian Grant Program will be managed by New Visions for Public Schools, the New York metro area’s administrative partner of FFT.

Through its Jones New York In The Classroom organization, the clothier has pledged $300,000 to FFT. Teachers will create their own Asian itineraries, and this donation will be used to develop curricula to “enrich the learning experience in the classroom and in cities and towns across” America.

Raymond Plank, founder of FFT said in the statement that “Children need to understand and embrace the global environment to survive as adults. The culture gap is a huge threat to the global workforce.”

Murdoch echoed that sentiment – with a dose of optimism: “We are proud to sponsor a program that will prepare our students to face the challenges and opportunities of a globally connected world.”

Ojala. One can only hope.