Fund for Teachers Supports Sustainability

Fund for Teachers Supports Sustainability One Teacher at a Time

Original article appears on TriplePundit, accessible here.

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2014


Sustainability widely refers to the endurance of products or processes. But for one nonprofit, the term applies to the profession of teaching. Fund for Teachers awards grants for pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade educators to keep them inspired, innovative and in the classroom. How educators choose to spend the national nonprofit’s investment – well, that’s up to them.

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Focus on Teachers: Brooklyn teacher talks about shift to personalized learning

Focus on Teachers: Brooklyn teacher Aaron Kaswell talks about his shift to personalized learning

Original article appears on Impatient Optimists, accessible here.

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2014


When I was at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) conference last month, I was able to catch up with math teacher Aaron Kaswell from MS 88 Peter Rouget School in Brooklyn, NY.

A year ago, we highlighted Aaron’s and his school’s implementation of New Classroom’s School of One, a blended learning approach that uses daily assessments to customize the next day’s instruction using multiple strategies, including individual online learning, workshops with teachers and problem solving tasks with peers.

At the time, Aaron was a few months into his second year of School of One.  He was eager and pleased to be moving beyond logistical questions of implementation to focusing on ways to use School of One to engage and challenge students at higher levels.

I was interested to hear from Aaron what he had learned from this past year and where he sees School of One heading for his students and co-teachers.

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Fellows Bring Learning, Experiences and Energy Back to School

519 Teachers Use $2 Million in Fund for Teachers Grants to Pursue New Knowledge & Skills This Summer

“A defibrillator for the educator”; “A reminder that there is still a student within me;” and, “By far, the best learning experience of my life” describe three of more than 500 self-designed fellowships teachers experienced this summer with Fund for Teachers grants. PreK-12 public and private school educators applied for the grants to pursue topics and/or destinations they identified as relevant to their practice and student success. Those awarded leveraged $5,000 individual grants and $10,000 team grants to learn in 151 countries and bring their learning back to school this fall.

Teachers (or Fellows) awarded grants represent 353 schools from all 50 states. The largest percentage of Fellows chose STEM-related learning and fellowships most often took place in the United States. A complete list of Fellows and their fellowship descriptions is available at

“The most essential component in any classroom is the teacher; students’ grasp of knowledge and perception of issues lie largely in their hands,” said Karen Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “Fund for Teachers invests in these professionals, empowering them as learners who explore and experience to advance student achievement.”

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has invested more than $22 million in 6,000+ teachers who, in turn, transform their classrooms into laboratories where students process and put into practice their teachers’ learning.
Fund for Teachers’ 2015 grant application opens on October 1. For eligibility and more information, visit, or the nonprofit organization’s blog and Facebook page.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of preK-12 educators by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that have the greatest impact on their practice, students and school communities.

History Hunters

Jamie Tipton and Jill Nichols, teachers at Normal Park Museum Magnet K-8 (Chattanooga, TN) celebrated America for two weeks at the beginning of the summer — retracing Colonial American sites along the east coast to examine the ramifications of events and decisions on people past and present.

(Clockwise): In front of Boston’s Faneuil Hall (also called the “Cradle of Liberty”); Joining the re-enactments in Williamsburg; In the office of Tennessee’s state representative in Washington DC; Arriving at Plimoth Plantation; Aboard the Mayflower II; Alongside signers of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall; With the Liberty Bell, also in Philadelphia.

Beginning in Boston, these Fund for Teachers Fellows observed original documents, re-enactments, artifacts, landmarks and national treasures to impart to fourth graders an understanding of the human element in American history. Upon returning home, Jill and Jamie reflected on their odyssey across centuries and states:

“To understand who we are and where we come from, we must step back in time and retrace the routes, decisions and struggles that our ancestors experienced when developing this nation. For us to be able to uncover these stories we had to take on the role of History Hunters. We visited 10 historical cities along the east coast in just 14 days, looking to deepen our understanding of how the America we know came to be.

Our hunt for history started in Boston on the Freedom Trail. We participated in a Boston Tea Party reenactment, took a colonial lantern tour and visited all the stops along the Freedom Trail – including the site of the Boston Massacre. The next morning we were led around Plymouth by a Native American who was able to share how events unfolded from their perspective. Next was Philadelphia, rich with history from the Constitution Center, Liberty Bell and Betsy Ross House. From here we spent the next day exploring in Baltimore Fort McHenry and learned about the Star Spangled Banner.

Washington D.C. awaited us with tours of the Capital, the Supreme Court and a night tour of the monuments. We even met with Tennessee’s Senators and the Department of Education!

A car ride away landed us at George Washington’s home. More mysteries awaited us in Roanoke that night. We spent the next few days exploring Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown by participating in 17th century daily life, customs, music, heritage and storytelling.

Before this fellowship, we had no idea, how much these experiences would impact us as history teachers. We were able to immerse ourselves into the stories of these people and the events that led to colonizing the New World. We gained first-hand experience that forced us to question our own knowledge. By adding new perspectives, we began to deepen our levels of understanding and discover ways to cast unbiased opinions about these events. When experiencing the struggles and triumphs that people faced before us, it gave us a desire to convey these events with truth to our students.”

For Jill and Jamie, a successful outcome of their fellowship will be when students look beyond just the dates and points on a map when studying American History to be able to envision the possibilities that lie before them as a result of decisions that were made in the past. Using video diaries created along the way, students will learn a new topic about American History each week, analyzing events from different points of view and becoming critical thinkers in their pursuit of history. Students will assume the role of a person from the past and make decisions that reflect how peoples’ past and present were affected. Lastly, they will create a showcase of learning and becoming experts on specific people and places from America’s colonial era, a showcase that includes original writing in different genres, artwork, artifacts and performances.

“Our students will see that our nation’s treasure is not only the documents and artifacts that helped make our country, but also the people that make up our great nation today. They will learn that the decisions and choices they make today will impact people in the future, just as the decisions made by our colonial predecessors impact us. Just as our Founding Fathers were making history, so is this generation. Students will now see learning opportunities available to them and be inspired to seek out their own historical experiences in Chattanooga and wherever their life journey may take them. They will decide what history they want to write”

Enjoy your holiday weekend by reviewing a day-by-day account of the History Hunters‘ patriotic journey on their blog.

Fellows Celebrate American History and Heritage

“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained.” –James A. Garfield, 20th president of US 1881

When given the chance to pursue summer learning opportunities of their own design, many Fund for Teachers Fellows choose far-flung destinations, soaking in different languages and cultures. But, for many, staying stateside holds the most promise.

More than a dozen Fund for Teachers Fellows are exploring American themes this summer: Colonial living, civil rights, migration and Native American life. In honor of our nation’s Independence Day, meet the Fellows who will make the spirit and history of America come alive in their classrooms this fall:

Team History Hunters (Jamie T. and Jill N.), Chattanooga, TN: Retrace Colonial American sites along the east coast to examine, from varying perspectives, the ramifications of events and decisions on people past and present.

Team History Hobos (Kathryn R., Ronda H., Melissa W., and Kelly B), Owasso, OK: Walk in the steps of patriots, pirates, slaves, soldiers and ghosts in Charleston, SC, to study the city’s influence on American history and facilitate students’ ownership of our country in a way that improves their stewardship of civil rights and duties.

Team Legacy of Liberty (Mandy B., Katy M., and Kenric L.), Houston, TX: Participate in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute to experience American History in a first-person setting, acquire authentic resources and better understand the learning processes/goals set for students.

Jeremy H., Chattanooga, TN: Follow historically-significant portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail, learning about their journey, the resulting westward expansion and the impact on Native American tribes, to create new units with an emphasis on student-led research projects.

Michael L., Richmond, TX: Embark on an American road trip with major stops in Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston to supplement U.S. History curriculum with experiences and artifacts that make the “Land of Liberty” relatable for low-income, inner city students.

Jean M., Munford, TN: Embark on a road trip across Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota to investigate Native American tribes’ influences and early farm life that inspired Americans to migrate to the Mid-West in the 1880s to create projects based on inquiry that meet district curriculum requirements.

Meshelle S., Kingwood, TX: Research sites pertinent to American history from 1620-1865 and write a “Time Travelers Journal” that introduces the genre of historical fiction and brings social studies to life for fifth graders.

Want to learn more about these projects? Visit our blog for more detailed project descriptions and Fellows blogs.

Remembering D-day

“…a duty of memory, a duty of gratitude…”

On June 6, 1944, 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the invasion, and by day’s end on June 6, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Normandy, commencing a march across Europe to defeat Hitler.

Nearly seventy Fund for Teachers Fellows are immersing themselves in world history this summer, but seven will focus their energy on understanding the historical importance of WWII and the events that transpired on D-day:

Connie Cox, Blue Spring, MO: Film key European World War II sites to inform the district’s new middle school Honors History curriculum and facilitate a student-made documentary of local war heroes.

Alexandra Edwards and Milagros Cruz, Brooklyn, NY: Investigate human rights abuses of the Holocaust and how Jewish communities rebuilt in Germany, Poland and the Netherlands to learn how communities teach tolerance education and apply these strategies to the implementation of a new student-centered Restorative Justice Program.

Amber and Gary Malone, New York, NY: Research in Japan how World War II and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are taught and perceived from the Japanese perspective through school and museum visits and interviews to develop a cross-curricular Social Studies and English Language Arts unit.

Nance Adler, Seattle, WA: Attend Centropa’s Summer Seminar in Vienna and Sarajevo to work with the first oral history project combining old family photos with stories of Holocaust survivors and instill values of empathy and tolerance in middle school students.

Natalie Biden, Bronx, NY: Conduct a comparative exploration through the American South and post-Holocaust Europe, researching the historical significance of past and present civil rights issues and the implications for urban students.

Additional D-day resources:

American Experience: Teacher Guide
Army Feature: Photos and Video
Henry Ford Museum: D-day 3D

$2 Million Awarded to Teachers

FFT Awards Millions to Educators for Innovative Learning Experiences
Trusts teachers to redefine professional development, one fellowship at a time

April 30, 2014 (HOUSTON) – Fund for Teachers, a national nonprofit that invests in teacher learning to advance student achievement, has awarded $2 million to teachers across America for self-designed learning experiences. This summer, 525 preK-12 teachers will pursue knowledge and skills they identified as essential to student success. Fellowship destinations include conferences, self-guided expeditions, fieldwork and service learning projects in 85 countries on 6 continents. A complete list of Fellows and their projects is available at

This form of personalized teacher learning contrasts with the more traditional, but less effective, professional development offered by most districts. More than 90% of teachers participate in workshop-style training sessions; yet studies show that short, one-shot workshops don’t change teacher practice and have no effect on student achievement. Alternatively, Fund for Teachers invites educators to choose the subject area and outlet for their professional development and provides $5,000 for individual grants or $10,000 for team grants.

“Fund for Teachers bridges the gap between what teachers have and what students need to advance academically,” said Karen Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “Fellows turn our initial investment into broadened perspectives and engaged learning – for themselves and their students. The result is a transformed career and classroom.”

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has invested $22 million in the personal/professional growth of 6,000+ educators. This new class of Fellows will post updates throughout the summer on the organization’s blog, Facebook and Twitter feed. Teachers may begin applying for 2015 Fund for Teachers grants online beginning October 1.

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, the academic lives of their students and school communities. For more information, visit

FFT Founder Honored by Houston Technology Center

The Houston Technology Center (HTC), announced it will honor Fund for Teachers founder, Raymond Plank, at their “A Celebration of Entrepreneurs” gala. This annual event honors Houston entrepreneurs who have made a significant impact in the community. Learn more about the event, here.