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.

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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.

Newsletter – Volume 2, Spring 2006

In This Issue:
New York fellows welcomed for NASDAQ close, reception
Each new fellow, event, forum becomes thread of FFT tapestry
Ni Men Hao!

Read our recent newsletter, Odyssey.

 

 

Teacher’s brainstorm brings Louvre to Katy school

Bear Creek pupils, parents treated to virtual tour

Betty L. Martin
Houston Chronicle

It might have be Mona Lisa’s indecipherable smile or the white-marbled beauty of the armless sculpture of Aphrodite.

And it might have been that Bear Creek Elementary School parents and pupils only had to make a short trip from home to experience these and other masterpieces of the Louvre.

But parent Stacey Vincent is giving rave reviews for a recent virtual tour of the Paris museum by more than 300 adults and children, mostly pupils in art classes taught by the tour’s host, Bear Creek teacher Lisa Sitz.

“Come Away with Me to the Louvre,” an evening featuring Sitz’s filmed trip through the museum plus a sampling of French cuisine and a few artsy activities, premiered Feb. 16 at the school, 4815 Hickory Downs.

The event was the result of a project that began last year when Sitz received a $4,500 grant through the Fund For Teachers foundation to record her actual trip to the Paris museum and create a program for her students.

“When everybody came in, we got little passports and boarding passes. (Sitz) made it like we were going on the trip with her,” said Vincent, whose 10-year-old daughter Savannah is in Sitz’s fifth-grade art class. “We started off with the food — croissants with ham and cheese, crepes with strawberries — then she welcomed us to Paris.”

Through video footage, Sitz took the “tourists” down the Louvre’s hallways, stopping at various art works. When it was complete, young assistants passed out candy that children in the audience used to form portraits.

Children also made wearable pens and magnets out of square-inch porcelain pieces Sitz stamped with the image of Paris’s famed Eiffel Tower.

“Savannah had a lot of fun with that. She thought it was great, especially making the little faces, and she got to eat the candy afterward,” Vincent said.

Sitz has what nearly amounts to a fan club among her students and their parents, Vincent said.

For Sitz, who began teaching in 1980 when she helped to open Cimarron Elementary School in Katy, the love of art is secondary to the joy of sharing it with her students.

“I took a break when my daughter was born and stayed home with her for 12 years, when I had a the Blue Bonnet Pottery Studio in Katy,” said Sitz, 50. “But besides making and selling pottery, I was usually teaching while I was there, so six years ago I came back to the classroom at Bear Creek Elementary.”

Sitz still keeps two pottery wheels at the school and uses them to help her students make sculpture art.

“I love art history and I have a history-based curriculum,” said Sitz, a former commercial artist for Houston’s Sakowitz store.

She had toured major museums in Paris and London before her 2005 trip, one reason she undertook the lengthy application process for the Fund For Teachers grant to create a project that would capture the Louvre on film and in more than 1,000 digital images.

“I came up with the project idea to do a virtual tour with hand-held cameras, where the kids are (mentally) walking with me through the museum — ‘OK, kids, let’s gather around and look closely at this Rembrandt,’ ” Sitz said.

Sitz, who has a 1977 art degree with an emphasis on sculpture from Trinity University in San Antonio, made the project interactive, with students keeping art journals and sketching the pictures or making notes about what they saw along the way.

“It was educational and it was a lot of fun for all ages,” Vincent said.

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

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2006 Fund Run

KTRK TV 13, Houston

Teachers to combine art, sports in school competition / Arts Olympiad meant to celebrate spirit of the games

Annette Baird, Houston Chronicle

Think Olympics. Think art. Combine the two, and there’s well, paintball shot put, paint dot fencing, wheelchair wheel print-dash, scooter board finger-paint luge and dipped arrow archery.

These are just some of the events art teacher David Butler and his wife Jody, a life skills teacher, have designed for special needs students in the Spring Branch school district to compete in their upcoming Arts Olympiad.

“It’s going to be wild,” said David Butler, who teaches at Spring Branch Middle School. “All of it has never been done before.”

And it’s going to be messy.

Athletes will fence by dipping sticks in paint to strike a canvas. Archery involves dipping foam arrows in paint to shoot at a canvas, while swimming involves flippers and a scooter board to leave tracks on canvas.

The resulting art work will be exhibited later.

The Butlers expect to host about 50 middle and elementary athletes in this first-of-its-kind Olympiad, inspired by their trip last year to Italy and Greece to study ancient sculpture and the modern Olympic athlete.

Helping them are teachers, students, artists and other volunteers who will work with the athletes.

The event, featuring everything Olympic from torch and flags to medals and closing ceremonies, is from 6:30-8 p.m. today at Spring Branch Middle, 1000 Piney Point.

David and Jody visited 28 art museums, met with archeologists, attended an athletics meet and watched athletes train during their visit, which was funded by a grant they won through the Fund For Teachers organization.

With David’s background in art and athletics, he coaches pole vaulting at Rice University, and Jody’s in-life skills, the two wanted to combine their loves of art, sport, children and the Olympics.

“I thought it would be neat to do something with life skills students,” David Butler said.

“This is the perfect culmination of the experience we had, and it gives children, athletes and parents a way to celebrate the Olympic spirit.”

Jody Butler said in brainstorming the events, they found nothing was off limits.

“We’ve found there isn’t anything these kids can’t do if you adapt and modify,” she said.

Pippa Day, whose 15 year-old daughter Laura Lodge has cerebral palsy, thinks the Olympiad is a fantastic and innovative concept.

She said Laura, who attends Spring Branch Middle School, is “very excited about getting involved.”

“Laura’s passion is art and sports, and combining the two together is awesome,” Day said

2006 Fund Run For Teachers Photos

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