Three area teachers awarded grants to travel, attend seminars/workshops

Ninety-six teachers from charter schools, private schools and 10 different school districts from the Houston-area received Fund For Teachers grants for the opportunity to travel, attend seminars and workshops, and acquire hands-on materials and information to enrich their students in the classroom.

Three teachers from the Leader-area were among those who received grants. They were:

  • Mekiva Callahan, from Aldine Ninth Grade School, chosen to participate with the MAESTRO Program fro Non-Spanish Teachers to study the Spanish language and explore the Spanish culture;
  • Karen Reeve, from Houston Wainwright Elementary, picked to explore, study, photograph and video the northwestern states of America; and
  • Neena Taylor, from Jersey Village High School, chosen to attend “The Complete Choral Musician” workshop sponsored by the Julliard School in New York City.

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.

The teachers will embark upon a variety of trips this summer, which will include travels to Mexico, Spain, Europe and throughout the United States. Focus of studies for these trips include: Spanish immersion, literature, history, geography, science, photography, cultures and internships.

FFT is a unique public foundation whose mission is to enrich the lives of schoolteachers and students by providing outstanding teachers with recognition and opportunities for renewal. Making a difference one teacher at a time, FFT provides funds for direct grants to teachers to support learning opportunities of their own design.

Fund for Teachers to hold sessions on obtaining grants

The Fund for Teachers will hold three informational sessions to help teachers learn about applying for the organization’s professional development grants.

The Fund for Teachers partners with the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide direct grants to teachers for summer professional development opportunities of their own design. Last year, more than 80 area teachers received grants.

Fund for Teachers grants are open to all Oklahoma teachers who have at least three years’ teaching experience, are full-time school employees and spend at least 50 percent of their time in a classroom setting.

Grant applications are available online at and must be postmarked no later than 12 a.m. Jan. 21.

Teachers can learn more about applying for the grants at the following sessions:

4-5 p.m. Nov 30, Redskin Room, Union Multipurpose Activity Center, 6836 S. Mingo Road.

4-5 p.m. Dec. 1, cafetorium, Fulton Teaching and Learning Academy, 8906 E. 34th St.

4-5p.m. Dec. 7, Broken Arrow Public Schools Central Learning Center, 210 N. Main St., Broken Arrow.

For more information, call (800) 681-2667

A summer of learning for Boston public teachers

West Roxbury Bulletin
Jeff Gilbride, Bulletin staff

Some Parkway teachers intend to add a little national and international flavor to their students’ curriculum this year after spending the summer in exotic places as far away as Ghana.

Boston Plan for Excellence, the city’s local education foundation, awarded $172,500 in grants to 47 teachers from the Boston Public Schools to visit 24 foreign countries and more than 20 states in search of educational inspiration to bring back to their schools.

The grants were offered through a joint initiative with the Boston Public Schools and Fund For Teachers/Boston.

West Roxbury resident Elizabeth Rendon and a colleague won a team grant for their joint proposal in which they spent part of the summer in Ghana to learn first hand about the West African nation’s culture, geography, people and education.

Rendon, a first grade teacher at the Mattapan Early Education Center (MEEC), and teammate Michelle Pless-Joseph, who also teaches first grade at MEEC, chose to VISIT Ghana because they felt it was important for Boston’s first grade social studies curriculum. Rendon left for Africa Wednesday Aug. 10, and the Bulletin spoke wither the day after she returned, Thursday Aug. 25.

“We actually just got back last night. It was amazing! It’s definitely a place to see and learn. I was impressed with the people and how nice and how happy they were, even though a lot of them lived in poverty,” Rendon said. “We visited a school and the teachers were very kind and willing to learn from us. That was an amazing experience. …That’s the one thing I don’t think I’ll experience anywhere else. We actually brought school supplies and donations to their village…and they were very grateful.”

Rendon stayed in Accra, the capital of Ghana, and also took some day trips to Kumasi and Cape Coast. She’s now figuring out ways that she can translate her experiences into curriculum for her students.

“We have taken a lot of pictures and videos and we plan to create thematic books for first graders,” Rendon said. “We have software that will allow us to download the pictures we have and create text to create an online library. … We also have video which we hope to set up as a website.”

That website would be accessible to teachers all over greater Boston.

Roslindale native Jessica Gorham received a grant to brush up on her Spanish this summer by taking a course in Madrid and touring historical and artistic sites in Barcelona, Valencia, Granada and Seville.

Gorham is an Italian teacher at East Boston High School, where she teaches grades 9 through 11. She said many of her students are from Latin America.

“It was really incredible. I’m an Italian teacher and I wanted to learn Spanish so I could diversify my teaching,” Gorham said. “So I went there as part of a program through the Spanish embassy, where I was able to participate in a three-week language program in Madrid. It was for Spanish teachers so I studied Spanish language and culture.”

Gorham said that while in Spain she developed an Internet BLOG, describing the places she stayed at, which she intends to integrate into her curriculum this year among other experiences.

“I won’t be teaching Spanish this year, but I’ll be able to use what I learned about the structure of the Spanish language in order to explain the difference between Spanish and Italian to my students that are regular Spanish speakers,” Gorham said.

Gorham said she liked being in the position of a student and experiencing personal triumphs that come with learning.

“It took me a few weeks to feel really comfortable with the language and then to be able to express myself with the people fluently was really the best experience,” she said.

Gorham took a course in Madrid that was designed for Spanish teachers at K-12 schools and community colleges and covered grammar, pronunciation, methods and materials, as well as techniques for incorporating Spanish history, theatre, and art into her curriculum.

Other teachers who live or teach in the Parkway area who were awarded grants include Cambridge resident Ana Vaisenstein, a math teacher-coach at Roslindale’s Sumner Elementary School who traveled 11,000 miles this summer to learn to use an ancient math tool: the soroban or Japanese abacus; Roslindale resident Teresa Marx, who attended the International Chem-Ed Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia; Roslindale resident Lisa Evans, an English as a Second Language teacher at Roxbury’s Orchards Gardens K-8 School, studied literacy and interviewed teachers in the Dominican Republic; and Roslindale resident Kathleen Doyle studied on and off-Broadway (and off-off-Broadway) plays in New York City to help teach children’s theater-related programs in Boston.

The Fund For Boston Teachers is a joint project of the Boston Plan for Excellence (BPE) and the Boston Public Schools (BPS), and this is the second year the partnership has awarded grants to city teachers.

Foundation grants teacher’s wish

Byrd Middle School instructor going to Italy

Tulsa World
David R. Million, Staff Writer

Fran Kallsnick is a dreamer. Going ice skating, going to Disney World and having healthy and fabulous children are among those dreams.

They all have come true, although it took years for a couple of them to reach fruition. This summer, a major dream that could have been many years in the making will come true just a few months after the Byrd Middle School art teacher conceived it.

Kallsnick will spend two weeks viewing artwork, especially pieces that the Medici family amassed. Her trip, which will begin soon after school ends for the summer, will be paid for by the Funds for Teachers Foundation.

Eight-two Tulsa-area teachers received about $215,000 for educational trips around the world. The money is administered locally through the Tulsa Community Foundation, said local foundation spokeswoman Annie Koppel Van Hanken.

Kallsnick said she has received grants in the past, but she is especially excited about this one.

“My whole life I have either taken art classes or taught art. When my friends couldn’t wait for summer to sleep late and hang out at the pool, I would take art lessons at the Memphis Academy of Arts. I’m originally from Memphis,” she said.

“All of my classes referred to a lot of the old masters’ works, including my art history classes. These were from the ones at the University of Oklahoma, where I was an art major.”

Byrd Middle School art teacher Fran Kallsnick (in front of her students’ works) said she has waited a long time to take a dream trip to Italy.

Kallsnick went back to Memphis last summer and saw the academy’s Medici family exhibit. She learned about the family’s influence on the art world, its contribution to Florence and the city becoming the capital of the art world.

“That exhibit stirred an interest in me to focus on their family,” she said.

Thinking ahead to the next school year, Kallsnick said, “I can’t wait to take many, many pictures to bring back and share with my students. We study some art history, especially in eighth grade. They get very enthusiastic when I teach history about a topic. Hopefully, I can get them excited about the Medici contributions and the art world once they see what I have seen.”

Kallsnick, now in her 11th year at Byrd, has taken advantage over the years of visiting family to expand her art knowledge.

“I have been to museums in many places around this country. I have a sister in New York, so I have been to all the museums there; of course, the ones in Memphis, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I’ve been to San Francisco museums and, because I have a sister in Dallas, I’ve gone several years to the museums in Ft. Worth. I have a son in Chicago, so I have been to the Art Institute of Chicago on several occasions,” she said.

Kallsnick’s dream to travel to Italy to study art began about a year ago when she learned of another Tulsa Public School teacher who received a grant to go to Italy.

While in Italy, Kallsnick plans trips to Rome, Florence, Venice, Como and side excursions around the country.

Kallsnick’s husband will accompany her on the trip.

Kallsnick said that even though she applied for the Funds for Teachers grant, she was surprised when she learned she was among those selected.

“I would never be able to afford a trip like this without the grant,” she said.

Private Education

Local philanthropy should enrich the public schools, but winds up having to provide basic support.

The Houston Chronicle

Texans are generous with their money and time, and education is a prime beneficiary. In a state with an adequate and equitable system of financing the public schools, philanthropy would enrich the learning of Texas children. As it is, private corporations and foundations are struggling just to keep the wheels from coming off the school bus.

According to the National Center for Education Information, 40 percent of the nation’s teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years, almost twice the rate for 1990-1995. Retirement will account for the bulk of the departures from a teacher corps that has aged considerably. But many teachers will leave because they can’t make a living or burn out. Every time a teacher leaves, it costs some school district an estimated $11,500 to recruit, hire and develop a replacement.

The Texas Legislature’s response to these conditions has been a failure to give teachers a raise and the refusal to provide public schools adequate funding. Fortunately, private charities have been more constructive.

The Houston-based Fund for Teachers gives direct grants to teachers for summer sabbaticals of their own design. The grants have sent teachers abroad to sharpen language skills and experience cultural immersion. They have underwritten research to find better ways to teach children with learning disabilities.

The result: retention of experienced and talented teachers; improved classroom teaching; and more student excitement for learning.

H-E-B, the grocery company, supports education across Texas. In the Houston area, the company, its corporate partners and its customers have raised more than $1 million to pay for school supplies for needy children. The need is so great, the National Education Associate reports, that modestly paid teachers spend an average $1,200 of their own money on classroom supplies.

Every year, H-E-B also provides 50 teachers, principals and school districts with grants ranging up to $100,000 in recognition of excellence.

These are but two of the many organizations providing support for Houston-area public schools. Think of how much good they could do if Texas politicians had the decency to provide the basics.

Houston pours energy into Fund for Teachers Challenge for Teacher Support

Steve Farris left, and Leticia and Steve Trauber spearheaded the Energy for Teachers campaign that raised $3 million for the Fund for Teachers.

On a recent evening, as the price of crude oil ratcheted toward the milestone $50 mark, a loosely bound group of energy executives celebrated a $3 million windfall they had amassed on behalf of the Fund for Teachers.

In less than eight months from the Energy for Teachers campaign’s inauguration, the $3 million goal was met. Three cheers for Energy for Teachers chairs Leticia and Steve Trauber, global head of the Energy Investment Banking Group at UBS Investment Bank, and Steve Farris, Apache Corp. president and CEO.

“This was a great collaboration with the entire business community,” Trauber said.

“I think the city is back…And I think, obviously, within the energy sector, high commodity prices are making everybody feel good.”

It was this celebratory thank-you that found more than 300 energy execs and spouses and educators, who had benefited from the Fund for Teachers, sitting down to dinner recently in the InterContinental Houston ballroom.

“This energy business,” special guest Mayor Bill White said, “has a lot of people with big hearts and open wallets.”

The $3 million Houston campaign is part of a larger $50 million campaign taking place nationwide in cities with Fund for Teachers programs – New York, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver and Tulsa.

In remarks to the gathering, Fund for Teachers founder Raymond Plank, Apache chairman, explained the value of the program that provides direct grants to teachers to support learning opportunities of their own design. The funds are used for teacher travel and study during the summer months – providing learning experiences that they bring back to the classroom.

“It’s like baseball and apple pie,” Trauber explained.
“How could you not support it?”

Among those supporting the project were Nabors Industries’ Eugene Isenberg and Tony Petrello, ConocoPhillips’ J.J. Mulva, Anadarko’s Jim Hackett, Halliburton’s John Gibson, Marathon Oil’s Clarence Cazalot and Cooper Cameron’s Sheldon Erikson.

The evening’s program included a talk by Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and dance music by Mid-Life Crisis and the Hot Flashes.

View photos.

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.”