Katy Resident Participates in Third Annual Fund for Teachers “Fund Run”

Katy Texas News
Katymagazine.com

Pictured Left to Right: Katy Resident Cynthia Ramos takes in the fun and festivities at the “Fund Run” – Runners at the third annual “Fund Run” prepare to begin the race – Karen Kovach-Webb (center), executive director of FFT congratulates Jennifer Brown and Jose Lara on their male and female first place finishes.

On February 9, approximately 1,000 runners, volunteers and spectators took part in the “Fund Run” by raising money to benefit Houston-area teachers. One of the runners was Katy Resident, Cynthia Ramos, who teaches at Jackson Middle School. Ramos used her Fund for Teachers (FFT) grant in 2006 to travel to Budapest, Hungary where she researched Hungarian folk tales and new perspectives in literacy techniques to bring back to her students.

FFT is a Houston-based non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of school teachers and students throughout the U.S. by providing outstanding teachers with recognition and opportunities to pursue independent studies over the summer. Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has provided $8.5 million in grants to 2,609 teachers in 47 states and Puerto Rico. In Houston, FFT has awarded grants totaling $1.8 million to more than 500 teachers.

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Landrum teacher to take part in Fund Run

Kim Morgan, Chronicle Correspondent

Memorial resident Dianna Gunn – who has run over hot rocks and away from molten lava during her world travels – will be among those who take part in Fund for Teachers’ third annual Fund Run on Saturday, Feb. 9.

Gunn, 36, a science teacher at Landrum Middle School, 2200 Ridgecrest Drive, spent two weeks studying active volcanoes in Europe, thanks to a $5,000 grant from Fund for Teachers.

“I’m not a runner, never have been, but I’m training as much as I can for that little 5K race,” Gunn said.

“I have about 15 of my friends signing up, too, because I want as many teachers as possible to have a wonderful opportunity like I did.”

Fund for Teachers is an organization that provides grants for teachers who wish to “pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.”

Gunn, who teaches seventh grade, visited volcanoes in Italy, including Mt. Etna, Vesuvius, Pompeii and Stromboli.

“Stromboli is one of the most active, if not the most active, volcanoes in the world,” Gunn said.

“It’s been erupting for thousands of years, gentle eruptions that throw out blobs of lava that look like fireworks every 15 minutes.

“But it varies, and when I was there I saw ash explosions, not lava. I was kind of disappointed but it’s also very dangerous.”

Gunn said the last time Stromboli activity waned, so much pressure built up that when it did erupt in December 2003 it blew out a side of the crater, which then slid down into the water, resulting in an 18-foot tsunami.

In fulfilling the fund’s mission, Gunn came back to Houston and created a unit for her students so they could experience what she did.

“We don’t have volcanoes in Houston, thank goodness, and they might never get a chance to see one,” Gunn said.

“I dressed every day exactly how I was dressed in the photos I was showing them.

“We had a lab where they got to go through stations, looking at samples of rock and sand I brought back.”

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers, said that’s why teachers like Gunn are a perfect fit for the grants.

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has provided more than $8.5 million in grants to 2,609 teachers across the United States.

In Houston, grants totaling $1.8 million have been awarded to more than 500 teachers.

The fund is supported by foundations, individuals and corporate donors.

Kovach-Webb said the Fund Run, while expected to bring out more than 1,000 participants and raise approximately $65,000, is more of an awareness campaign than a fundraiser.

“It gives our corporate supporters an opportunity for their employees to come out with their families and meet some of our teachers,” Kovach-Webb said.

“Last year in Houston we awarded 101 grants worth $375,000.”

That number will likely go up, because this year they are increasing team grant amounts from $7,500 to $10,000, she said.

“We upped it because it’s really interesting to see the teachers’ quality of work when they collaborate on their project, and then collaborate back in the classroom,” Kovach-Webb said.

Individual grants such as the one Gunn received will remain at $5,000.

Seguin Elementary School teachers to take part in Fund Run for Teachers

Kim Morgan, Chronicle Correspondent

Sarah Baker, Nirmol Lim and Amy Rose, all teachers at Seguin Elementary School, 5905 Waltrip Street, aren’t much for running.

But they want to show their gratitude and support to Fund for Teachers, so they will volunteer at the registration booth or by passing out water during the FFT Fund Run on Feb. 9.

Fund for Teachers is an organization that provides grants for teachers who wish to “pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their pupils and on their school communities.”

Baker and Lim received a team grant of $7,500 to attend a national energy conference in Washington D.C. last July.

Lim, who teaches fifth grade, said they would never have been able to afford the conference without the help of Fund for Teachers.

“The conference itself was $1,000 each excluding airfare and taxi,” said Lim, a 29-year-old southeast Houston resident. “It is wonderful of Fund for Teachers to help teachers learn.”

Baker, a fifth grade science lab teacher, said she learned things at the conference that surprised her.

“I learned a lot about nuclear energy,” said Baker, a 28-year-old Meyerland resident.

“One thing that surprised me most is that nuclear energy is renewable. The tablets they use to make uranium, they can use again and again.”

Baker said she met a woman at the conference from Puerto Rico whose home runs completely off of solar energy.

“It costs her $3 a month,” Baker said. “I didn’t know you can get solar shingles on your homes.”

In keeping with part of the mission of Fund for Teachers, Baker is passing everything she learned on to her science pupils at Seguin.

“We’re about to start our energy unit,” Baker said. “We will build solar ovens, solar cars, hydro-powered cars and design a (wind) turbine.

“The grant also provided money to buy the materials to do the activities. I was able to get more than $800 worth of supplies.”

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers, loves to hear stories like that.

She said the Fund Run, while expected to bring out more than 1,000 participants and raise approximately $65,000, is more of an awareness campaign than a fundraiser.

“It gives our corporate supporters an opportunity for their employees to come out with their families and meet some of our teachers,” Kovach-Webb said. “Last year in Houston we awarded 101 grants worth $375,000.”

That number will likely go up, because this year they are increasing team grants from $7,500 to $10,000.

“We upped it because it’s really interesting to see the teachers’ quality of work when they collaborate on their project, and then collaborate back in the classroom,” Kovach-Webb said.

Individual grants will remain at $5,000.

Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has provided more than $8.5 million in grants to 2,609 teachers across the United States.

In Houston, grants totaling $1.8 million have been awarded to more than 500 teachers.

The fund is supported by foundations, individuals and corporate donors.

Fund Run set for Feb. 9

South Belt Ellington Leader

The third annual Fund for Teachers Fund Run will take place Saturday, Feb. 9, near the Galleria on South Post Oak Road between Ambassador Way and Lynn lane beginning at 8 a.m.

Founded by Raymond Plank in 2001, FFT’s mission is to raise grant money for teachers to travel during their summer vacations to broaden their horizons and return to share what they’ve learned with students.

To date, more than 2,500 teachers from 47 states have studied and traveled throughout the United States and 100 other countries on seven continents.

The nonprofit organization is supported by foundations, individuals and corporate donors. Since its inception, the group has provided $8,571,804 in grants to 2,609 teachers.

In Houston alone, FFT has awarded grants totaling $1.8 million to more than 500 teachers.

The 2007 Fund Run had more than 1,000 participants and benefited more than 100 local teachers.

FFT grants are awarded to teachers working with students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers submit proposals detailing how their fellowship will make them a better teacher and how their improved skills are to be implemented in the classroom, benefiting students, curricula and school. Grants are awarded based on application quality and merit as judged by a committee.

Several teachers with ties to the South Belt have been past grant recipients. Among these are Donna Edwards and Robbie Biggerstaff.

Edwards, a South Belt resident and math teacher at De Zavala Fifth-Grade Center, traveled with a group to Costa Rica to learn about the scientific wonders of the region and to experience immersion in the Spanish language and culture. She attended a two-week intense Spanish language program at the Costa Rica Language Academy. The teacher also went on excursions to places like Tortuguero National Park to study the rich ecological zones and biodiversity of the country and gather scientific information, pictures and videos to show her students upon return.

Biggerstaff, a seventh grade English teacher at Beverly Hills Intermediate, went on a trip last summer to visit the birthplaces of Southern female authors to discover how culture, history and geography inspired their work. She went on a four-week literary tour of three Southern states, visiting the homes of seven women authors, including Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple. She studied the locales that influenced these writers in an effort to better share their stories with her students.

Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of FFT, is enthusiastic about this year’s event, “Houston has so many wonderful teachers, and it also has a truly generous community of people that want to inspire them to keep doing what they do,” she said, adding, “With the help of people like these, we want to make it possible for more teachers to develop their own talents so they can infuse students with vision and confidence. We are thrilled to host this third Fund Run, and we look forward to seeing a big turnout to show the love for our local teachers.”

The event will feature a 5-kilometer race for children. The top male and female finishers of the 5-kilometer competition will each receive a $100 gift certificate to Fleet Feet.

The children’s race is free, while entry fees for the 5-kilometer contest vary. Early registration is $20 for participants 18 years of age and older and $10 for 17 and younger. Late registration is $25 for 18 and older and $15 for 17 and younger. Early registration ends Friday, Jan. 25. Children under 11 must be accompanied by an adult.

Sign-in and late registration will take place from 7 to 8 a.m. The children’s race will go from 8 to 8:30 a.m., and the 5-kilometer run will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Registration is available online at www.fundforteachers.org or by calling 1-800-681-2667.

Registration fees include a T-shirt and chip timer. Due to city ordinances, pets are not permitted.

CPAs Helping Schools (CHS) Launches New Joint Venture

Tonja Rodriguez
Enewsbuilder.net

In an effort to optimize our impact on the educational community supported by the Houston CPA Society members, CHS has partnered with Fund for Teachers to award a $5,000 training scholarship to a local teacher focused in the area of accounting or mathematics.

Fund for Teachers is a Houston based nonprofit organization that provides grants directly to teachers to support their professional learning. Grants are awarded to teachers working with students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Teachers submit proposals detailing how their fellowship will make them a better teacher and how their improved skills are to be implemented in the classroom, benefiting students, curricula and school. Recipients are selected based on application quality and merit as judged by a committee.

The Houston CHS grant will be awarded in March 2008 to a teacher working in a public or private school located in the geographic area covered by the Houston CPA Society (13 counties). This partnership gives the Houston CPA Society exposure to far more teachers than the individual members of our committee can reach. CHS is pleased to have the opportunity to impact the educators in our community in this unique way.

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 www.cfegrants.org. 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
Chron.com

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.”