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 www.fundforteachers.org.