NYT: A Spotlight on Teaching, Not Teachers

Fund for Teachers Board of Directors member, Robert Hughes, is a contributor to these letters to the editor, responding to Joe Nocera’s article, Gates Puts the Focus on Teaching. Tell us what you would like to say to those making education policy at facebook.com/fundforteachers.

CPS Board Honors Outstanding Teachers

On the eve of National Teacher Day, the Cincinnati Board of Education recently…showcased seven other CPS teachers recently named as 2012 Fund for Teachers Fellows for summer travel and research, designed to develop engaging, thought-provoking classroom lessons for their students. More than $30,000 was awarded to Cincinnati educators through the program, locally sponsored by the Strive Partnership.

Read the article in it’s entirety, here.

2012 Fellowships Announced

May 7, 2012
Fund for Teachers Awards $1.8M in Grants to Teachers Across the Country; Teachers Become Students Again This Summer

Hamilton County Teachers Receive Summer Fellowships

Their Students Will Reap the Benefits
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Public Education Foundation (PEF) on Tuesday awarded fellowship grants totaling $96,630 to 27Hamilton County educators –– to pursue self-designed learning adventures this summer. The fellowships are made possible through a grant to PEF from the national nonprofit organization, Fund for Teachers.
The winning teachers responded to PEF’s invitation to propose their ideal professional development experience and explain how this would inspire authentic learning in their classrooms. Among the exciting and innovative proposals:

Lora Jenkins and Lonna Henriquez, Tyner Middle School Academy, will conduct biodiversity and conservation research in Costa Rica for a documentary and curriculum materials to be used in a school-wide unit.

Brian Fahey, Normal Park Museum Magnet School, will travel the Netherlands and France to explore how cultural, economic and political needs affected human/environmental interaction throughout history.

Katie Hawkins, Brown Middle School, and Rachel Price, Red Bank Middle School, will attend the Reading and Writing Summer Institute at Columbia University and meet with young adult author Lois Lowery to discuss the craft of writing for young adults.

Stacy Williams, East Brainerd Elementary School, and Rita Schubert, East Ridge Elementary School, will attend a creativity workshop in Barcelona and a brain-based workshop in Texas to acquire strategies to ignite creativity in students from poverty.

Susan Morrison, East Hamilton Middle/High School, will venture to Cambodia to meet survivors of the Khmer Rouge and discover the potential for grass roots activism in third world economies.

2012 Fund for Teachers Fellows in Chattanooga

These teachers and 19 others from Hamilton County will join 450 peers from around the country to whom Fund for Teachers awarded $1.8 million in teacher grants for 2012 summer exploration and learning. This is the first year that Hamilton County educators were eligible for these fellowships, made possible through PEF’s new partnership with Fund for Teachers.

“This has been a rewarding and rigorous process to select these 27 teachers from the 83 who applied. Almost all had compelling ideas and proposals,” said Dan Challener, PEF president. An independent Selection Committee of educators and community leaders made the final choice on the basis of the creativity of ideas, the thoroughness of research, and the passion expressed for teaching. “Returning from their fellowships, these teachers will deepen the knowledge of their students thanks to the insights and experiences they gained from these grants.”

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, their students and their schools. For more information, visit fundforteachers.org and facebook.com/fundforteachers.

Public Education Foundation partners with Hamilton County Schools to help students succeed by offering professional training and coaching for teachers, principals and administrators; human and financial resources to promote research-based innovation; and research that promotes continuous achievement. Since 2000, PEF has helped to bring over $60 million in supplemental, philanthropic funding to the school system. For the full list of Fund for Teacher awards, please visit pefchattanooga.org/fundforteachers.

To view the original article, click here.

FFT Grant Leads to Student Service Projects

Original article appears on My Ballard, accessible here.

Local students fundraise for a community service trip to the Amazon

April 13th, 2012
By: Almeera Anwar

Most students have to wait until college to study abroad, if they do at all, but a handful of Ballard students are getting the opportunity to go to the Amazon in middle school.

The program started about six years ago when Todd Bohannon, a first grade teacher in Ballard, applied for Fund for Teachers grant that enables teachers to go and have experiences they otherwise would not. The goal of the grant is to help them become better teachers. Bohannon said it was kind of a fluke that of all the places he could take students, he decided on the Amazon. “I applied to the grant during a week of where we were just stuck in snow,” said Bohannon, “And a friend from work, who had previously received the grant, told me to just pick the place that was the craziest and most out there – and I picked the Amazon!”

This trip will be the fourth time Bohannon is taking kids to the Amazon. The group is comprised of about 10 – 15 students, all middle-school-aged, and usually one of two parents join the trip as chaperons. The majority of the recruitment for the trip has been through word of mouth from kids that Bohannon previously taught and their friends. “Every time I go it’s a new experience because I get to see it through their eyes,” said Bohannon, “It’s unlike anything that they have been to, so when they arrive, a part of them just lights up, a part that doesn’t anymore. You can see them just let go of our culture and experience nature.”

Bohannon said it’s always rejuvenating to get away, and it immediately puts things in perspective for him, saying “It makes you realize how small you really are and how our problems really are not that big.”

Jen Fallon’s son, Colin, is going on the trip for the first time this year. Colin, a 7th grader at Salmon Bay, heard about the opportunity from a friend’s brother who went in 2009. Fallon said it was all Colin’s motivation and something that he really wanted for himself. Fallon is excited for her son to go because she thinks it’s important for students, especially from America, to see how the rest of the world lives. She thinks her son is most excited about how different this trip will be from anything that he knows, and that he’ll get a lot of personal growth from it.

“My husband and I are not big travelers and we’re middle class individuals, so I certainly never could have taken him to the Amazing rainforest,” said Fallon. “So it’s great for him to get a chance to go with his school. When we were kids, opportunities like this were never an option!”

Each trip is a little bit different; this year the group will be spending longer in the jungle than ever before doing a much larger community service project. Bohannon thinks the students will get a lot more out of this because it will allow them to interact longer with the local community and to hear their stories.

The group is still fundraising for their trip this year and will be at the Ballard Sunday Markets in April and May, when they can, selling Equal Exchange coffee and chocolate.

FFT Fellow Weighs in on Teacher Evaluations

Fund for Teachers Fellow, Robert Jeffers, weighs in on publishing teacher evaluations in an article for Impatient Optimists, a publication of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Read Robert’s eloquent response, here.

On his 2008 Fellowship, Robert used film to explore and document urban gardens across the US and how schools and communities interact with these dynamic public green spaces. Read more about his fellowship experience, here. In addition to his 2008 Fellowship, Robert was awarded the 2009 Plank Fellowship Award and has been recognized for his work with film production and editing classes by20th Century Fox.

Travel Grants Open to Teachers

Travel grants open to globetrotting teachers who aim to improve

Gotham Schools, February 14, 2012
by Jessica Campbell

Faye Chiu and Eszter Weiss, veteran math teachers, spent last summer in Italy and Greece — not bathing on the Riviera or hopping the isles, but retracing the steps of the ancient mathematicians in search of inspiration to energize their curriculum at Manhattan’s Millennium High School.

And while they were soaking up information about Archimedes, other city teachers were going to the far corners of the earth for their students, too: to Sweden to learn about individualized learning plans; to Iran and Turkey to collect information for helping non-Muslim students understand their school’s growing Muslim population; to Brazil to gather tips on getting girls interested in physical activity.

If the trips don’t sound like the average professional development sessions, it’s because they’re not. Instead, enabled by the national organization Fund for Teachers and its local partner, New Visions for Public Schools, are fueled entirely by teachers’ own curiosities.

In the past, New Visions offered the grants only to teachers affiliated with the schools it manages and supports. But this year, the nonprofit added supplementary grants of up to $10,000 that are open to teachers in all city high schools — provided that they teach courses that culminate in a Regents exam, have been teaching for at least three years, and plan to return to the classroom in September. Applications for this summer’s YouPD Challenge Grants are due Feb. 29.

Eszter Weiss and Faye Chiu, Millenium High School math teachers, exploring Archimedes Garden in Florence, Italy on a 2011 Fund for Teachers trip.

The concept behind the grant is simple, according to Robert Hughes, New Visions’ president.

“The best professional development is the professional development that teachers create and define for themselves,” he said.

Hughes said the program’s expansion is meant to recognize stellar educators throughout the city.

“With all of the controversy flowing around teachers it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the extensive commitment that the vast majority of teachers make,” he said. “Despite the rhetoric, we have some of the strongest teachers in the country.”

Weiss and Chiu outside a school in X’ian, China. (Courtesy Faye Weiss)
As a Fund for Teachers partner, New Visions has doled out $2.3 million to 600 teachers since 2003, allowing them to design and pursue their own global journeys towards growth.

The application process is slightly more rigorous for this expanded crop, with the added requirement that they submit a unit plan and video that demonstrates their ability to tailor their curriculum to meet the Common Core standards. The expectation is that teachers will invigorate their practice and curriculum through these travels and then pass on what they’ve learned to their colleagues.

Chiu and Weiss’s trip to Italy and Greece was not their first trip enabled by Fund for Teachers. Through their school’s affiliation with New Visions, Chiu and Weiss also received a grant to travel to Hong Kong and China in 2006.

The first trip was born out of a curiosity about why Millennium’s students from Asia and from Asian-American families were generally more proficient in basic mathematical skills than other students. The teachers designed a six-week itinerary chock full of school visits and interviews that could inform their own practice.

While they saw certain cultural practices around education that wouldn’t translate well back in their New York classrooms — students bowing to the teacher, families being required to financially contribute to their child’s education — they also found strategies that they could steal.

“We were very into open questioning and discovery-based learning,” Weiss said of their pedagogy at the time. “We weren’t into drilling and rote memorization.”

But seeing the latter practiced on the other side of the globe planted the idea that in moderation it might help their students.

“If it’s just creative then you don’t have accuracy, but if you just focus on the drilling and the rote memorization then you can’t develop their critical thinking skills,” Chiu said.

Now Weiss, Chiu, and other teachers in their department try to strike a balance; they make games of drilling students on basic mathematical knowledge and they have started using a skills-based math curriculum, Delta Math, some of the time.

If the trip to Asia was about bringing students into modern times, the trip to Italy and Greece was about connecting them back to ancient ones.

Inspired by a weekend outing to an exhibition of the nearly 4,000-year-old clay tablets that document early Babylonian mathematics, the pair decided that retracing the paths of ancient mathematicians would help them help students better appreciate the genesis of and need for the formulas that can seem so stale in a high school algebra class. The stories they picked up about the earliest scholars have now infiltrated their lessons.

Crafting their own professional development adventures did leave them susceptible to some hiccups, like being turned away by the Chinese Ministry of Education and being denied access to antique math manuscripts at an Italian library. But they said the payoff of charting their own course was worth it.

“It’s self-designed and it doesn’t get much better than that,” Chiu said.

FFT & NVPS Offers Grant Challenge

Fund for Teachers – New Visions for Public Schools Offers Grant Challenge to All NYC Public High School Teachers

February 1, 2012 (New York City) – All New York City public high school teachers have some thinking to do: What do they want to learn and where they want to learn it this summer? By crafting their proposal and submitting to Fund for Teachers, they could receive up to $10,000 to make it happen.

The Fund for Teachers – YouPD Challenge Grant is a pilot program extending the traditional Fund for Teachers grant opportunity to all New York City public high school teachers. Since 2003, 600 New Visions for Public Schools teachers received more than $2.6M in Fund for Teachers grants to pursue learning odysseys around the world and engage students in 350 NYC schools.

Read the press release here.