Shearn Elementary Gets an Extreme Makeover

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Parkway Teachers To Go Globetrotting On BPS Grants

Hands-on experiences are ideal when it comes to educating students. Come this summer, 47 Boston public school teachers, who were awarded grants, will get to visit the lands they’ve talked about in social studies classes, educate students in far-away lands, take seminars to improve their teaching and also hopefully do some sightseeing on their own time.

Elizabeth Rendon of West Roxbury is headed to Ghana in West Africa to learn about the nation’s culture, history, people and education system. Rendon will be joined by Michelle Pless-Joseph, who wrote a joint proposal for the grant. The two chose Ghana because it’s an integral part of Boston’s social studies curriculum in the first grade. They will be developing a social studies, science, art and language arts curriculum while in Ghana and afterwards.

“This trip will deepen our awareness of Ghana, as well as help us develop an understanding and respect for Ghana’s culture,” said Rendon, a first-grade teacher at the Mattapan Early Education Center. “There is a saying that a person cannot teach what he or she doesn’t know and cannot lead where she or he will not go. We look forward to going to Ghana so that we can teach and lead more effectively.”

The pair expect to visit Ghana’s capital, Accra, along with slave castles, crafts villages, along with the country’s rainforest and desert.

Rendon and Piess-Joseph gained their grant through the Boston Public School Fund for Teachers, which is run by Boston Plan for Excellence and the BPS. This is the second year that the partnership has given grants to BPS teachers.

Mary Clark, who teaches a the Haley Elementary School in Roslindale, will be visiting the same continent, but headed to South Africa with colleague Bruce Thatcher. The two will be working together to create a curriculum to improve student’s technology, reading and writing skills.

The duo will start in the town of Dundee and make their way through 16 schools in the very rural area. They’ll also visit Cape Town.

“While there, we’ll not only see how South African schools use AlphaSmart [a portable battery-powered work processor] but also share best practices of theirs and ours,” said Clarke, a computer teacher. “We’ll document lessons learned on the most effective use of low-cost technology to share with our colleagues in Boston when we return.”

Cynthia Paris Jeffries is on her way to Deutscheland, aka Germany, to attend the International Congress for the Study of Child Language at the Freie University.

“In addition to being bilingual and bicultural and English Language Learners, my students suffer from myriad speech-language disorders, such as the inability to comprehend spoken language,” said Roslindale resident Jeffries, a bilingual speech-pathologist at Roxbury’s Tobin K-8 School. “The conference will help me acquire a deeper understanding of the causes and origins of these specific language disorders and learn different models for assisting my students.”

To better understand how she teaches math, Summer Elementary school teacher Ana Vaisenstein of Cambridge will visit Japan to learn how to use the soroban, or Japanese abacus.

“I have always been curious to learn how the Japanese, and Chinese, operate with the abacus,” said Vaisenstein. “In Asia, even though calculators are readily available, the abacus and soroban are still widely used. I am particularly interested in how to use the soroban to teach number sense and relationships among numbers.”

Throughout her stay, Vaisenstein will be photographing how the soroban is used in daily life.

Ohrenberger Elementary School teacher Patricia Dervan won”t be headed to Germany, Ghana, Japan or even across the Charles River, at least not from a grant given by the BPS. Nope, she”s going to stay in Boston and head to a seminar on early child care and education at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center in Beantown.

“I read Dr. Brazelton’s books 30 years ago when I had my first child, and his practical advice helped me with my own six children,” said Dervan, who works with special needs students.

“Most of my students are nonverbal and have special needs in the areas of cognitive, emotional and physical development. This training will help me understand why they act, learn, behave, interact and develop as they do. And that will help me work with their parents.”

Couture Finds A Cause

Jones Apparel Group, Inc. has survived in the cutthroat world of fashion by keeping a laser-sharp focus on the preferences of its well-heeled audience. Hems at the knee? Shoulder pads out? Pink as the new neutral? JAG gets it, and probably a full season before its ready-to-wear competitors.

But successful brands go further than tweaking their merchandise, and continually look for ways to increase their relevance for consumers. In June 2004, JAG began tracking concerns beyond hemlines, with an eye to impacting the very fabric of its consumers’ and employees’ lives. Through surveys of the two groups, the company learned that each shared a top priority: children and education.

Within months, Jones had constructed its first corporate-wide philanthropic campaign, Jones New York In the Classroom. The four-tiered program, backed by a $1 million grant, aims to improve the quality of education by supporting teachers via fundraisers, partnerships and in-school activities.

“We exist for our consumers,” says Stacy Lastrina, senior VP-creative services, Jones Apparel Group. “They led us to [the education cause]. Consumers want to do more, but don’t always have the time. This gives them an opportunity to get involved.”

JAG’s initial grant will benefit four teachers’ organizations and address specific challenges within the profession: recruitment, retention, professional development, and recognition and support. By supporting teachers, the benefits will reach children, Lastrina says.

“Teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, yet there are very few programs for [them],” Lastrina says. “We want teachers to know there are resources out there and that teachers count.”

New York City-based marketing consulting firm The Leverage Group helped launch the program for JAG.

“Our research showed that employees and consumers are tremendously motivated by causes that address the needs of children,” says Dana DiPrima, executive VP of The Leverage Group. “Removing barriers to education was a critical concern.”

According to the In the Classroom Web site, between 30% to 50% of teachers leave the profession within three to five years. By 2010, the nation will need 2.2 million to 2.4 million teachers to fill the growing need.

The need recognized, JAG and Leverage then decided where to focus support. Following interviews with educators, administrators and agencies, they winnowed choices from more than 75 non-profit teacher organizations to four:

TeachersCount, a national organization that offers free teacher support services, resources and information.

New Teacher Academy, a support program for first-year teachers.

Fund For Teachers, a grant-giving organization that supports teachers’ summer professional development.

Adopt-A-Classroom, a national organization that links individuals and businesses to classroom needs.

Partnering up

JAG launched In the Classroom on May 2 by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange and handing out apples and hats to traders. The following day (May 3 — National Teacher’s Day), it kicked off globally via print ads and a guerilla marketing effort, as teachers and students rallied outside The Today Show in New York City.

Since then, JAG has adopted more than 100 classrooms; some 3,000 more teachers have registered to have their classrooms adopted; more than 80 teachers earned summer sabbaticals and more than 100 teachers have engaged in New Teacher Academy.

JAG is extending participation to its 7,000 corporate employees, offering three hours of paid time-off each month so staff can support the campaign. Some employees spend that time organizing activities for adopted classrooms.

Other employees across 23 JAG locations are organizing independent fund-raisers (think craft sales and bake sales), raising between $500 to $2,500 per event for the campaign, says Amy Rapawy, VP-marketing, Jones New York.

“Our associates led us to this cause,” she says. “It’s something they feel passionate about. The entrepreneurial spirit has really taken over.”

In addition, JAG is giving makeovers this month to teachers and their classrooms – complete with a Jones New York wardrobe – in five regions via its Back to School, Back to Style program. The June isssue of O magazine encouraged shoppers to nominate teachers online. Other partners include The Home Depot, Lane Furniture and Hancock Fabrics. Celebrity designer Laurie Smith from TLC’s Trading Spaces assists, adding trademark style to each classroom.

The program hits retail this fall, when JAG launches a dedicated Shop For Education Week from Oct. 15-22 in more than 250 Macy’s East, Macy’s West, Hechts and Carson Pirie Scott stores. Ten percent of the proceeds of JAG merchandise sales (up to $500,000) will go toward the cause. Consumers may treat themselves to mini-manicures or massages in the “teacher’s lounge” or samples goodies during “recess.” More than 60 teachers from area schools will participate in runway shows in the five markets and model Jones apparel. “We are putting [teachers] on the runway and treating them like the models they are,” Rapawy says.

For Macy’s, the partnership with JAG was a no-brainer, says Martine Reardon, executive VP-marketing for Macy’s. “Education was easy…for me to say ‘yes’ to. Children are very, very important to [what] Macy’s is about and what we want to support. It’s not about a sales generating idea. It’s more about giving back to the community in which we live.”

The retailer’s role could grow in future years, Reardon says.

“Anything we’ve ever done with Jones has always been a success for us,” she says. “We feel good there is potential for us to grow.”

The appeal extends to other retail partners. Gift retailer The Fruit Co. is assembling specially designed In The Classroom watercolor art boxes. “We really feel a special tie to this program,” says Scott Weber, president of The Fruit Co. “It’s great to be associated with Jones New York In The Classroom and the cause of helping education.”

The Fruit Co. plans to donate 20% of its gift sales used with the promotional code JYNYCLASS toward In the Classroom. The Hood River, OR-based company hopes to raise $1 million by year’s end.

Online, consumers can purchase apple car magnets (similar to the magnets that support U.S. military troops) branded with “Support America’s Teachers” via www.jnyintheclassroom.org for $3 each, plus shipping.

“It’s a call to action,” DiPrima says. “What better real estate than the back of your car to show your support for teachers?””

Umm, maybe your chest? JAG will offer this fall a limited edition T-shirt created by New York City artist Ryan McGinness. The T-shirts will sell for under $20 at select Macy’s and other department stores, as well as 102 Jones New York outlets.

‘Strategic sense’

The Classroom initiative coincides with a pivotal time in JAG’s market positioning. Though it reported a nine-cent decline in earnings per share to $2.39 in 2004, JAG revenues rose 6.8% last year to $4.7 billion from $4.4 billion, largely due to the 2004 acquisitions of Barney’s and Maxwell Stores.

A philanthropic cause like In The Classroom, especially in partnership with Macy’s, makes sense, says Marie Driscoll, investment officer for New York City-based Standard & Poor’s Equity. Federated Department Stores, owner of Macy’s, accounted for 12% of JAG’s sales last year, she says. While the campaign itself won’t result in a big financial boost for JAG, it may yield a positive impact on the brand over the long term to increase its pricing and position, Driscoll says.

“It makes strategic sense to do this,” she says. “It’s a grassroots effort to connect with people and bring awareness to the fact that this is a valid cause. It’s a plus.”

In the Classroom isn’t JAG’s first grassroots foray. In 2003, it kicked off its Life Speaker Series and Wardrobe Seminars. The program, which included trunk shows, offered lectures on financial success, health, nutrition, stress and time management to women working in Fortune 500 companies. Boston-based Arnold Brand Promotions handled.

The brand reached more than 100 companies. Trunk show proceeds benefited the Women’s Alliance, a national organization that provides clothing, career skills training and other services to low-income women seeking employment.

“Jones really looks to what is important in women’s lives,” says Michael Carey, VP-group account director for Arnold. “They know what is important to those people aside from clothing. They look at what is important to consumers from a personal perspective to make that personal touch with someone.”

The women behind Jones New York Inside the Classroom are in full agreement.

“The goal is not to lift sales, but to make a difference and add value to the brand,” Rapawy says.

“Anyone who thinks a company initiating a cause marketing campaign is doing it to ring their registers is completely mistaken,” Lastrina says. “It will not get consumers to purchase a brand they do not already have an affinity for. It’s about extending the relationship.”

“This is just the beginning,” DiPrima promises.

Corporate Plunge

JAG execs get immersed in the cause

How to get employees to really back a fundraiser? Promise to get corporate bigwigs to provide sweat equity – literally! When Ellen Bowen, director of organizational development for Jones Apparel Group’s division Nine West Footwear, suggested company leaders wash employees’ cars raise money for In the Classroom, the response was overwhelming.

“It’s a fun way to turn the tables,” Bowen says. “The entire company embraced the idea.”

Sixteen division presidents and VPs rolled up their sleeves July 18 for the Get Washed Nine West Footwear Corp. Presidential Car Wash. For $10, employees received a car wash from the president or VP of their choice and an In the Classroom car magnet.

In all, more than 80 employees signed up for the event. The car wash raised over $2,000.

With corporate employees in the cause, Jones Apparel Group can “move the needle” and make a difference in teachers’ lives, Bowen says.

“Many of us are working women with children,” she says. “To have a cause that is close to home for us is really important. It is unique for a corporation to say, ‘We want you to volunteer.’ It sort of promotes a better balance in our lives. It’s a wonderful thing.” – AJ

Teachers’ Pets

Brands make the grade by helping schools

Other brands have recognized the importance of teachers and education via various marketing inititatives. Washington Mutual Bank rewarded teachers for their excellence with tickets to a Broadway show – 28,000 Saturday matinees to be exact. To celebrate its 2002 entry into New York City, Washington Mutual exhausted the supply of Broadway tickets and gave them to 14,000 teachers who were nominated by students and parents. In addition to the free show, teachers were treated to a pre-curtain rally in Times Square lauding teachers. The reward was part of Washington Mutual’s Spotlight on Teachers campaign, which won Best Overall and Best Idea or Concept in PROMO’s 2003 PRO Awards. Now in its sixth year, Delray Beach, FL-based Office Depot Inc. is renewing its 5% Back to Schools program, which offers schools the chance to earn free school supplies during the year. Under the program, shoppers select a school to receive a 5% credit for qualifying school supply purchases. Since its inception, Office Depot has awarded $10 million to more than 36,000 schools in the U.S. and Canada.In addition to the 5% Back to Schools program, the company runs a backpack donation program, in which each store donates backpacks to schools and associations to help underprivileged kids in their area.“Our focus is on children,” says Mary Wong, director of community relations for Office Depot. “There isn’t going to be a future without them.” That’s not all. Office Depot stores across the U.S. and Canada are hosting their 12th annual Teacher Appreciation Breakfasts to give area teachers an occasion to network and prepare for the upcoming school year. The program, designed to recognize and honor teachers for their work and thank them for their commitment to children, runs through Aug. 27. Teachers and administrators can visit www.school.com to learn about this year’s list of scheduled breakfasts. More than 100,000 teachers and administrators participated in the program last year. – Amy Johannes

It’s Academic at Jones

NEW YORK – Having dressed countless teachers in classic tweeds and comfortable shoes, Jones Apparel Group is now reaching out to give them a helping hand.

The company next month will launch Jones New York in the Classroom, a multifaceted cause-marketing effort to improve the quality of education in the U.S.

“As diverse and as fragmented as women are, they stand unified in one area, and that is children,” said Stacy Lastrina, senior vice president of marketing.

Jones, purveyor of Jones New York and other brands as well as owner of Barneys New York, is using its status as one of fashion’s best-known companies to support teachers through the non-profit organizations TeachersCount, New Teacher Academy, Fund for Teachers and Adopt-A-Classroom.

“We’re hoping it starts to build momentum and takes on a life of its own,” said Lastrina.

The need for such a program is great, she said. Some 2.3 million new teachers will be needed in the U.S. by 2010, but the profession is not a top career choice and loses 30 to 50 percent of its entrants in three to five years. Additionally, teachers spend an average of $589 of their own money to ready their classrooms.

The program’s apple logo will be featured in Jones New York’s national advertising, and up to $500,000 of the brand’s sales during the first week of October will be donated to the four non-profit organizations.

Jones will also hold events, such as runway shows featuring teachers as models, to support the ongoing initiative.

The company polled its employees and consumers to come up with a cause that resonated with both groups. Education is also an area near and dear to Jones chief executive officer Peter Boneparth, who is an active guest lecturer at business schools, and who has said he might go into teaching if he should ever choose to leave fashion. On April 15, Boneparth was principal for the day at the Global Enterprise Academy in the Bronx.

To celebrate the new program, the ceo will ring the closing bell on the New York Stock Exchange May2, the day before National Teacher Day.

How teacher spent summer vacation; new grants send educators to the corners of the world

The Boston Globe
Stephanie Vosk, Globe Correspondent

Suzanne Haile, a special education teacher at Brighton High School, plans to bring to her new classroom at Gardner Elementary in Allston this fall what she learns during a 40-day trip to Mali and Gambia in Africa this summer.

Boston Latin School teacher Son-Mey Chiu, who teaches Chinese language and culture, will bring back to her students what she finds while studying Chinese minorities and Buddhism on a monthlong trip to Southeast Asia.

The two are among 47 Boston public school teachers awarded $172,500 in grants this summer from the Boston Plan for Excellence’s Fund for Teachers program.

The grants will allow the teachers to travel nationally and internationally in ways that will benefit them and their classes.

“Africa’s sort of a dream place,” said Haile, before leaving on her trip earlier this month. “When I heard about the Fund for Teachers program, I thought I’d pick the place I wanted to go the most.”

Haile is studying the art of fabric design and dyeing techniques, and creating a kit for other teachers to use with their students.

Chiu said she heard about the program after two of her colleagues went to China last year, the first year of the fund, after the national Fund for Teachers program approached Boston about taking part.

Though 90 people were awarded grants last year, program director Dotty Engler said the money available this year was for 47, out of 130 applicants.

Though teachers have the opportunity to apply in teams, many more requested individual grants this year, she said.

Individuals could request up to $5,000, Engler said, and each team could request up to $7,500. Applicants had to explain how the trip could benefit their classrooms, their colleagues, and themselves.

“One of the things we really want to know is that this is something they’d love to do but maybe would never be able to afford on their own,” Engler said.

“In some ways, it’s a pragmatic fantasy, something that you really want to do as a professional, but meets the other criteria.”

For Marcia Young, a kindergarten teacher at Joseph Lee Elementary School in Dorchester for 33 years, an interest in knitting sparked her idea for a trip.

Young planned to spend six days learning the ins and outs of knitting in upstate New York, from visiting a sheep farm to dyeing yarn.

“It’s something that I’ve done all my life and enjoyed, so I was hoping that maybe this would be of interest to some of the children,” Young said.

For Young, the lesson will tie in to a Ukrainian folk tale called “The Mitten” that she teaches her students. As the tale tells of a grandmother knitting mittens for her grandchildren, Young often takes out her own knitting needles and explains the process to her students. After her trip, she will have more insight to share.

“By experiencing it, I hopefully can share my enthusiasm with the kids, and they usually get excited if I’m excited about something,” said Young.

Engler said the committee also considers how articulate the applications are, and how much the teachers really seem to want to take the trip.

“It’s the closest thing to being a fairy godmother,” said Engler, “that I’ll probably ever do.”

Virginia Lombard: East is East and West is West and here the twain shall meet

Alexandra Bowers, The Charlestown Bridge

When Charlestown resident and teacher Virginia Lombard returns to Charlestown High School in the fall, she’ll have quite a tale to tell about her summer vacation.

Lombard will travel for three weeks in mainland China, courtesy of a grant from the Fund for Teachers, a Boston Plan for Excellence program that funds summer travel and study for Boston public school teachers.

“The Fund for Teachers is free-form,” said Lombard. “You make your own trip and find your own connections.” She added that sometimes an idea will come from someone’s trip of a previous year, and that teachers often find connections through local residents.

Lombard, who teaches Java programming and Web design, hopes to study how computer technology is used at several Chinese high schools, and to establish relationships that will continue after her return to the U.S.

For Lombard one reason she decided to apply for the grant is that Charlestown High School is reorganizing its class structure. The emphasis across the school will be on small learning communities to focus on the skills that each group of students needs to concentrate on.

Lombard will be in the bilingual unit, which teaches English skills to Chinese and Hispanic students. Roughly 15 percent of Charlestown High School students are in the Chinese bilingual program.

“There are a lot of students who have been in the U.S. for only one or two years, and they need the ESL classes,” said Lombard, adding that there are large groups of students from Hong Kong and from the nearby province of Guandong.

“It’s primarily Chinese and some Spanish-speaking students that sign up for Web design,” said Lombard, adding that some elective courses, including the ones she teaches, will be open to the whole school.

Lombard used the tools of her trade to set up her trip. She surfed the Web to find the sites of Chinese high schools and then wrote emails to explain her goals and set up her visits to the schools. All the schools have staff members who are fluent in English, which has made the planning easy.

“I talked with [the schools], and they said they’re advanced in what they’re doing,” said Lombard. “I’m looking to see what they’re doing with technology in the schools. I want them to show me and talk about things.”

Lombard will travel in China for three weeks, leaving on July 28. She will visit high schools in four cities – Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an and Chongqing. There will be time before her return for a boat cruise down the Yangzi River to see the Three Gorges before a giant dam under construction fills them in.

In addition to visiting high schools and speaking with teachers, Lombard hopes to learn about the culture and diversity of China as she travels through the country. She also has a list of sites to visit that includes the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the terra-cotta tombs of the First Emperor.

Lombard won’t be alone during her trip. Her niece, Caroline Turner, is a junior at Winchester High School. Turner is also the sports editor of her high school newspaper. When Lombard asked her if she would like to visit China, Turner’s reaction was immediate.

“She was so excited that she had her passport in the works the next day,” said Lombard.

Both Lombard and Turner are learning Mandarin Chinese using an audio foreign language course. “I’m trying to teach myself Mandarin. I drive around and people think I’m talking to myself,’ said Lombard.

Next week she’ll get a chance to find out if she’s pronouncing things correctly or not. And when she returns to her home in Charlestown, she’ll have even more chances to practice with her students as she bridges the digital divide between East and West.

Fellow Testimonial – Lori Davis

Fund for Teachers kicks off campaign

River Oaks Examiner

Fund for Teachers recently recognized its 2005 fellows at a special award ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Business leaders from around the city have joined forces to participate in the newly formed Houston Leadership Committee raising money for the Fund for Teachers Houston 2005-2006 campaign. Funds raised will be used to permanently endow summer sabbaticals for Houston-area teachers.

FFT grants will be awarded to teachers who work with students in grades K-12 and have a minimum of three years teaching experience. Participants will be selected based on how their summer fellowship will make the applicant a better teacher, how improved skills and capacity will be implemented in the classroom and how the teachers’ improved skills or capacity will benefit students, curricula and the school.

Founded by Apache Corp. Chairman Raymond Plank, the foundation’s enrichment fund is supported by individual and corporate donors.