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.

FFT at the Closing Bell

Newsletter – Volume 1, Winter 2005

In This Issue:
Tulsa Community Foundation hosts celebration
First DC fellows travel to Indonesia’s
Makeover Magic

Read our recent newsletter, Odyssey.



Fund for Teachers kicks off campaign for teachers

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 are awarded to teachers who work with students in grades K-12 and have a minimum of three years teaching experience. Participants are 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.

Fund for Teachers Sends 82 Traveling

Eighty-two Tulsa area teachers, representing 36 schools, received Fund for Teachers grants this year for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

Participants in the program gathered at the Bok Tower downtown recently to share stories, artifacts, slide shows, photos, memorabilia and teaching tools from their summer sabbaticals.

FFT grants are awarded to teachers who work with students in grades prekindergarten through grade 12 who spend at least 50 prcent of their time in the classroom and have a minimum of three years teaching experience. Participants are selected based on how their summer fellowship will make the applicant a better teacher, how improved skills or capacity will benefit students, curricula and the school.

The teachers from the Tulsa area this year traveled as far north as Alaska and as far south as Australia.

Individual teachers can apply for as much as $5,000 through the program; teams of teachers can apply for a maximum of $7,500. 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.

Fund for Teachers was founded by Ray Plank, founder and chairman of the board for Apache Corporation in 1998. Its mission is to enrich the lives of schoolteachers and students by providing recognition and opportunities for renewal to outstanding teachers. Fund for Teachers awards grants directly to teachers for supporting professional development opportunities of their own design.

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

National Firm Boosts Local Teachers

An international designer garment corporation is boosting Tulsa’s teachers.

Jones Apparel Group Inc. has launched its first corporate wide cause program-Jones New York in the Classroom.

In Tulsa, the program to aid teachers will be administered by the Tulsa Community Foundation. (TFC).

The nationwide program aims to improve the quality of education for children through recruitment, retention and support of teachers in America’s public schools.

In addition to dollar donations, the JNY is offering human resources via an employee network and a united effort with four other national non-profit organizations.

Tulsa’s Fund for Teachers (FFT) was one of the four beneficiary nonprofits selected to participate in this national campaign.

FFT is a public foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of schoolteachers and students by providing outstanding teachers with recognition and opportunities for renewal.

In partnership with TCF, FFT provides funds for direct grants to teachers to support learning opportunities of their own design

FFT recently recognized its 2005 fellows – 82 teachers from Tulsa – area schools – who received grants, totaling over $214,190 of funds awarded, for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

“The Jones Apparel Group is helping Americans understand how vitally important it is to nurture and invest in teachers, “said Fund for Teachers Executive Director, Karen Kovach-Webb.

The need for teacher is great and retention is important, said Kovach-Webb. Experts predict that two million more new teachers will be needed over the next decade, while recent studies show that approximately one-third of the nation’s teachers leave the profession during the first three years and almost half in the first five years.

“(We want to) take a leadership role in providing immediate and tangible help in the classroom, while encouraging others to join us along the way,” said Peter Boneparth, president and CEO, Jones Apparel Group Inc.

Rather than just “throw money” at the cause, the corporation “is taking multifaceted approach to supporting teachers at critical points in their careers, with a focus on four areas: recruitment, retention, professional development and recognition and support,” he said.

Group Raising Funds For Teachers

Houston Chronicle

The newly formed Houston Leadership Committee has begun its 2005-2006 fundraising campaign for the Fund for Teachers, a program that offers summer sabbaticals and grants to Houston-area teachers.

Edgewood pupil wins ‘Fund Run’ poster contest

Winning design to be used for promotional materials

Kimberly Blair, Chronicle Correspondent

Hundreds of students from around Houston competed to design the posters and promotional materials for the First Annual Fund for Teachers “Fund Run” — but one Edgewood Elementary School pupil won the contest.

Eliza Quintana, a fourth-grader at the Spring Branch school district school, was presented with a certificate of achievement and a $50 gift card to Old Navy for her effort.

Quintana said she plans to use the money “to buy clothes for my family as a gift for their support.”

The First Annual Fund for Teachers Fund Run, scheduled for Jan. 21 at Sam Houston Park, 1000 Bagby, is a fundraiser for the organization, said Karen Kovach-Webb, executive director of Fund for Teachers.

The Memorial-based organization awards grants to teachers for self-designed summer development opportunities.

Quintana’s winning design “stood out from all the others because of her use of color and creativity,” Kovach-Webb said.

“She also used emotion in her design that truly brought her drawing to life; we thought it was a perfect fit.”

Quintana said the inspiration for her design — which depicts children running on a track field, trying to get to the finish line — was her school’s track coach.

“I thought about coach making us run the track and thought it would be fun to actually bring myself in this picture,” Quintana said. “I drew myself running across the finish line.”

And when the competition was over, that’s what she’d done.

“I thought I was the luckiest person,” Quintana said of her design being selected. “I felt proud.”