Funds helps teachers bring world back to class

What would you like to do next summer? That’s the question that teachers who apply for a grant from the nonprofit Fund for Teachers foundation, get to answer.

Some of the winning respondents have gone on to: explore volcanoes in Hawaii, trek across Laos to learn about the Hmong culture, hike the rainforests of Costa Rica, or participate in a hands on study of Beluga whales.

Three Pearland residents who teach in the Houston Independent School District have procured these prestigious grants. They are Marilyn Horn, Laura Aasletten, and Lisa Webber.

More than 2,000 teachers nationwide have received grants from Fund for Teachers. The nonprofit’s vision is to grant 2,000 awards annually by 2010. The organization awards grants directly to teachers “to support professional development opportunities of their own design.” The foundation’s founder and CEO of oil and gas exploration giant Apache Corp. – Raymond Plank – said that as a boy, he was inspired by his Latin teacher.

Some time after service as a bomber pilot in World War II, Plank decided that he wanted to find a way to help exciting teachers stay in their profession.

“One teacher can effect 3,000 students in his or her lifetime,” said Plank. “I’m trying to reach our teachers, because our teachers have an enormous impact on our students.”

To help raise funds, The First Annual Fund for Teachers Fund Run will be held 8 a.m., Sat., Jan. 21, at Allen Parkway and Sam Houston Park, 1000 Bagby in Houston. For more information about the 5 K Run/Walk, free to kids, and $20 for adults early registration, call 1-800-681-2667.

The top 25 teachers will receive prizes. Long-sleeve t-shirts will be given out to contestants, and there will be a celebratory event at Sam Houston Park after the run.

Former zoo keeper and now Pearland resident Lisa Webber said she used the grant to visit the habitat of creatures she was used to seeing in cages.

“I was awarded a Fund for Teachers grant of $5,000 and went to Tanzania for two weeks in July” Webber said.

“The first week of the trip I was on safari and visited 4 national parks – Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro. I also visited a Masaii village. I was a zoo keeper for 9 years prior to becoming a teacher, so I was really excited at seeing the animals I worked with – elephants, rhinos, zebras, and giraffes – in their natural habitat.”

During her second week in Africa, Webber taught in a public school in Arusha, Tanzania, composed of 550 children, grades K-5.

“It was wonderful and eye opening,” Webber said. “This experience opened my eyes to how fortunate we are in this country. But at the same time the experience showed me that no matter where you live, children are still children and want to learn about the world around them.”

The school where she taught had no electricity, or breakfast or lunch, had pit toilets, and there were no supplies.

“At the same time,” said Webber, “the teachers do not complain and are dedicated. The students are great to work with.”

Webber said she brought pencils, pens, rulers, maps, crayons, soccer and gym balls, jump ropes, Frisbees, and bubbles with her.

“They were so appreciative and thankful,” said Webber. The children had to share one book amongst 10 classmates, and copy all of their work in newsprint booklets, said Webber. There were no literature books to read to the children.

Webber’s roommate, Jane Sordillo, practiced her physical therapist skills by working at the only facility in Tanzania that helps children with disabilities.

Webber, who can communicate with the teachers in Tanzania by e-mail, says that she is now in the process of adopting the school.

“It is called the Julius Nyerere School, so named after their late president and the person responsible for Tanzania becoming independent.”

“We will collect school supplies, have students be pen pals, and have students write reviews of books and send them to the students,” Webber said.

Everyone knows that in a vibrant democracy, education is the keystone to all other endeavors in life. In a recent PBS special, titled, “The Lost Prince,” the documentary focused on the remarkable achievements of a child epileptic, Prince John, due to the remarkable pugnaciousness and determination of his teacher. Though epilepsy was little understood back then, the child became an artist and musician.

Fund Inspires Teachers To Inspire Their Students

Shaun Epperson, World Staff Writer

Fran Kallsnick wept as she gazed at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time.

Kallsnick, who teaches art at Byrd Middle School, visited Italy this year as part of a grant from the Fund for Teachers, a foundation that provides summer travel opportunities for educators with a goal of enriching education for them and their students.

“I finally had realized one of the major dreams of my life,” Kallsnick said of her 16-day trip, which included stops in Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan and Como. “I could never imagine what it could be like in person.”

Kallsnick made the comments Tuesday during a gathering of several 2005 participants at the BOk Tower downtown. A total of 82 Tulsa-area teachers received grants through the Fund for Teachers in 2005.

Teachers of prekindergarten through grade 12 who spend at least 50 percent of their time in the classroom and have a minimum of three years teaching experience are eligible for a grant.

Kallsnick said the experience of traveling to Italy and seeing firsthand the art she teaches her students about has had a positive effect in her classroom.

She also brought back teach ing material for her class.

“When students are working, they’re always asking me about different aspects of my trip,” she said. “With the slides and all of the materials I brought back, they’re really interested in it.”

Individual teachers can apply for as much as $5,000 through the program; teams of teachers can apply for a maximum of $7,500, said Paula Wood, a program officer of the Tulsa Community Foundation, a sponsor of the program.

As part of the application process, teachers must submit a written proposal and an itemized budget.

Applicants are selected to receive grants based on how their proposed summer activity will enhance their teaching skills and better the education of their students.

Kallsnick said her experience abroad has revitalized her passion for teaching and has given her a better perspective.

“This is my 20th year of teaching, and I’m just as inspired, if not more so, now,” she said. “There are so many ideas I have that I want to do.”

Raymond Plank, the founder and chairman of the Fund for Teachers, said inspired teachers inspire students and other educators.

“The enthusiasm and the learning are very transferrable to the kids,” he said. “We do find that teachers who have gone through this program bring it back to schools where they teach and into the community.”

Wood said teachers should put a lot of thought into what destination they choose and how their time there could benefit them and their students.

“Really, the sky is the limit,” she said. “We’re hoping that teachers think of an area of the world that would be of interest to them and would be of value to the classroom.”

Applications for next summer are due Jan. 20. For more information, call the Tulsa Community Foundation at 494-8823 or go online to the Fund for Teachers Web site at

Fund for Teachers grants help teachers bring the world to the classroom

Developing global thinkers requires global-thinking teachers.

Going out into the world, bringing back and sharing experiences with Saint Paul school districts students is the goal of a unique grant program for teachers made possible by support from the Saint Paul Foundation.

This past summer, 14 Saint Paul Public Schools teachers were awarded grants, through the Fund for Teachers, ranging from $2,500-$5,000 to travel all over the planet.

Beverly Alsleben, an English as a Second Language teacher at the International Academy-LEAP School, and Rady Yang, first-grade teacher at Battle Creek Elementary, traveled to a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand. Seeing the challenges Hmong refugees face in getting an education inspired Yang to remember the reasons he became a teacher. Alsleben brings back first-hand experience of the Hmong culture to incorporate into her teaching this year.

Speaking Swahili in Tanzania and living in Zanzibar (a place where many cultures have crossed) were the goals realized by Mary Dorow, an Prep teacher at World Cultures Magnet. For Washington Technology Middle School science teacher Stephanie Erickson, walking on glaciers and landing on the island nation of Iceland on the summer solstice were important experiences to bring back to share with her students.

Kimberly Colbert, an English teacher at Central Senior High School, participated in an arts literary program at Brown University.

Seeing the beaches of Omaha in Normandy and places he only dreamed about as a child was a dream come true for Peter Grebner, a physics science teacher at Como Park Senior High, who traveled to The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

Thanks to money raised through the Latino Culture Club at Johnson High School where Scott Hall teaches English as a Second Language, he was able to deliver new childrens books to a bustling library in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

Meeting the Dalai Lama was one of many life-changing highlights for Pamela Hoff, an Emotional/ Behavioral Disorder teacher at Boys Totem Town, who traveled to India.

On the Atlantic coast of southern Brazil, Sarah Horns, a science teacher at Harding Senior High School, studied dolphins through Earthwatch, which pairs scientists with volunteers from around the world.

Arlington Senior High art teacher Angela Ruddy participated in a 10-day workshop on creativity in Aix-en-Provence in France, a small town whose beauty was painted by Van Gogh, Matisse and Cezanne.

Lynn Schultz, a fourth-sixth grade teacher at J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet Elementary School, participated in an Explore Cubas Geography program.

Nancy Veverka, a Spanish teacher at Arlington Senior High School, studied the influence Africans had on the shaping of Brazilian history, culture and religion.

And finally, Heidi Geimer and Annette Lopez, third-grade teachers at Capitol Hill Magnet Elementary, travel to Mexico in February to study monarch butterfly migration. This will benefit their students who raise monarchs in their classrooms each fall and focus on their migration.

A Somerville-based Boston public school teacher has won a grant for summer travel to Southeast Asia in order to bolster her classroom teaching.

Christopher H. Roberts

“I want to hear the stories from Vietnamese voices to complement the stories that I know,” said Bethany Wood, who teaches American literature of the Vietnam conflict as part of her 11th grade curriculum at Another Course to College in Brighton.

Wood currently uses works by Tim O’Brien and other Americans who have been in Vietnam in her class, but she is unsatisfied with the limited scope that the American perspective allows, she said.

“Because of my own limited knowledge about Vietnam, when I present these works by American writers I present a stagnant and stale history,” she said. “The story is one dimensional, beginning and ending with the war and told only through American voices.”

“I have come to realize that I am not telling the whole story. I am not telling the Vietnamese story,” she said.

This summer Wood will tour Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in order to craft her own, first hand understanding of the region’s culture and people, she said.

Over the course of her month-long stay, Wood will visit dozens of historical and cultural sites, both to learn and to gather materials. She will go off the beaten tourist path in order to shop, dine and live where the locals do. Particularly, she will focus on works by Vietnamese authors to accentuate her course, she said.

The Vietnam experience is a difficult story to teach to current high school students, but it is vitally important to do so, Wood said.

“My students don’t have as strong feelings about the Vietnam War as they do about the first Gulf war or the current Iraq war. One can’t look beyond the fact that the Vietnam War is a major part of our history and it plays heavily on our consciousness,” she said.

Wood also wants to fulfill the needs of her own students who are of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Laotian descent. “Their story is going untold,” she said. “I want to understand Vietnam beyond just thinking of it in context of the war.”

Wood’s journey will start in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. From there, she will take excursions to My Son and My Lai. She will travel from south to north, making stops in the Imperial City of Hue and the former Demilitarized Zone on her way to Hanoi, she said.

She will make a stop at the Truong Son National Cemetery, where 11,000 Vietnamese war dead are buried; she will also stay with a Vietnamese family in the Mekong Delta, she said.

She is particularly excited about her home stay, she said. “I especially want to see firsthand the landscape of the Mekong Delta, vividly described by so many American soldiers,” she said. “A home stay there is very important to me.”

Wood said she will be part of a tour group for part of her tour, but her trip will also include solo travel. “I am deliberately stepping out of my comfort zone and I expect to feel some disequilibrium in this new culture,” she said.

“But, I also expect the experience will challenge my thinking as a teacher and as a woman, test my own limits, and make me contemplate my life from a new direction,” she said.

She will also stay connected to her students, despite being thousands of miles away. “I’m going to create a multi-media scrapbook on the Web chronicling my trip, so that my students can follow along with me as I make my journey,” she said. “I want my students to see what it’s like, to question every stage of the trip.”

Wood said she received her grant from a Fund for Teachers/Boston, a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence and the Boston Public Schools system. This is the second year that the partnership has awarded grants to teachers in the city’s public schools.

For summer of 2005, the project has awarded $172,500 to 47 teachers for travel in 24 foreign countries and 20 states. Fund for Teaches/Boston is administered by the Boston Plan for Excellence, and is affiliated with the national Fund for Teachers Foundation, she said.

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Fellows give their perspective on the benefits of the Fund For Teachers grants.

Bryan Meadows
Catherine Davis
Lori Davis
Sharon Felty