‘Fund Run’ benefitting Houston teachers moves to Galleria area

Andrea Sutton
Examinernews.com

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.

INFORMATION: www.fundforteachers.org/fundrun

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 www.fundforteachers.org.

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 www.fundforteachers.org 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
Forbes.com

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.

Fund for Teachers Grows

Among donors and hosts, generosity reigns at garden party

Shelby Hodge
Houston Chronicle

Cynthia and Tony Petrello stepped up to the plate in a major way with the Fund for Teachers garden party Friday night.

They opened the lush gardens of their elegant Remington Lane home to a crowd of 300 for a buffet dinner and later dancing to the sounds of Chaka Khan.

Of course, they had good reason. Their close friend Gene Isenberg, Nabors Industries chairman and CEO, was honoree. Tony serves as president and COO of the drilling company. All that and their interest in education prompted the generous Petrellos to completely underwrite the evening.

he dapper Isenberg and his wife, Ronnie, moved through the crowd greeting such important players as Raymond Plank, Fund for Teachers founder and Apache Corp. chairman.

The crucial question for the party hosts and planner Richard Flowers on this weather-filled weekend was tents or no tents. In the end, they took the safe route, erecting a vast tent for the buffet dinner and program and a separate party tent decorated like a swank nightclub for dessert and dancing.

The evening served as the culmination of the Fund for Teachers’ annual spring fundraising push, an effort that brought in $1.8 million. In the crowd were Anne Mendelsohn, Jill and Jeff Collins, Mary Lou and Walt Smith, Susie and Bob Peebler, Leticia and Steve Trauber and Linda and Jeff Stephens.

View photos.

Event recognizing companies supporting FFT

YAHOO! News

Rupert Murdoch (L), CEO of News Corporation, Peter Boneparth (C), CEO of Jones Apparel Group and founder of the Jones New York In The Classroom initiative, and Raymond Plank, founder of the Fund for Teachers, pose at an event recognizing the combined donation of $2 million from the above companies to support Fund For Teachers in New York May 8, 2006. The grant will send teachers to study in Asia, bringing back culture, language and a global perspective into the American classroom.

T.J. Callahan of Houston Weekend Magazine talks with Karen Kovah-Webb

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