An Interview with Karen Kovach Webb: Fund for Teachers

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

Fund for Teachers has an important contribution to make toward an expanded notion of what constitutes teacher’s professional development.

Karen, what exactly is this FUND FOR TEACHERS and where does this money come from?

Fund for Teachers has an important contribution to make toward an expanded notion of what constitutes teacher’s professional development. Quality, depth and authentic work with purposeful processes, skills and craftsmanship that will directly impart student learning as proposed by an individual or a team of teachers is what we aspire to fund with each of our grants. We are a donor supported public not-for-profit set up to fund the continuing, self-designed professional development and scholarly exploration of teachers. Research shows that teacher effectiveness is one of the most important factors for student achievement.

Founded ten years ago by Raymond Plank in an effort to change the learning experiences of American students; Fund for Teachers received seminal funding, along with early introductions to energy sector peers, from Apache Corporation. We continue to grow and diversify our outreach in alignment with an ever expanding donor base of individuals and corporations and an increasing number of strategic partnerships forged with a geographically diverse group of local education foundations.

Tell us about the application procedures- how many sheets of paper have to be filled out and can this be done on line?

Applications and the scoring rubric are available online, October 1st, through the January 28th deadline. Applicants fill out two online forms, and the proposal, which is comprised of seven sections. Proposals cannot exceed 18,000 characters (around 4 typed pages). The Fund for Teachers application is incredibly user friendly, and we take pride in our simple, but effective proposal requirements. Many grants seem overwhelming, strictly because of the application process. In addition to FAQ’s and very specific instructional information; the applicants may also participate in frequent webinars or attend local information sessions in person. Fund for Teachers has removed the “hoops” that so often prohibit teachers from applying.

Is this only for teachers or can guidance counselors, and computer support people also apply?

Our grants are available to PreK-12th grade “teachers” who have three years teaching experience and spend at least 50% of their fulltime position in a classroom or classroom like setting. Librarians, counselors and technology specialists who engage in classroom instruction with students for half of their work week are eligible.

Do you encourage national investigation or international?

We encourage teachers to make that decision for themselves. Some of the best work can take place in a teachers own “back yard”—if that is where they determine their questions can be answered. What makes Fund for Teachers so special, is the belief in a teacher’s knowledge and choice of what learning experience will be the best for their personal and professional growth AND what will translate into the most beneficial experience for their students and communities.

Could you just give us a few sample projects to whet the interest of teachers out there?

Fund for Teachers Fellowships are as unique as the teachers who design them. Here are a few:

  • Travel to England to explore the world of Harry Potter to bring literature to life in the classroom.
  • Study and chronicle early Roman architecture in order to enhance and enliven the teaching of mathematics through visual imagery.
  • Paddle a sea kayak the entire length of the Lower Mississippi River to conduct scientific research and develop a river ecology unit.
  • Follow the path of Georgia O’Keeffe across TX and NM looking at art, petro glyphs and pictographs, and attending a workshop at Ghost Ranch and International Folk Art Market.

Let’s face it- we would all like a vacation in Iceland, I mean Hawaii- but what are you looking for in terms of these grants?

Successful Fund for Teachers’ Fellowship proposals show evidence for the possibilities of both personal and professional growth for the teacher scholar, as well as project the potential impacts on their students’ learning. The rigor of the application is complimented by the rigor of the scoring rubric. The step by step on-line process allows the teacher to review both sets of criteria prior to making application.

How many people read and review these grants?

Applications are reviewed by committee assembled in each program locale of diverse group of community members. Each application is independently read and scored by a cluster of at least three individuals. Final scoring is determined by “cluster” group discussion. Last year, there were nearly 200 readers nationally. The same scoring rubric and selection process is used across the country. Funding is a collaborative decision based solely on the merit of the proposal as evaluated by the local cluster and the funds available. Committee members include past grant winners, donors, school or district leaders, and community volunteers.

Do you have a web site where teachers can get more information?

Teachers and all other interested parties are invited to visit www.fundforteachers.org.. Information may also be obtained by calling 800 681-2667 or by email to info@fundforteachers.org.

And what do you have for college professors to expand their horizons?

Fund for Teachers’ grants are designed specifically for PreK-12th grade teachers.