“Made in China” Means More to Cincinnati Teacher After FFT Fellowship

November 30, 2011 (HOUSTON) – The Chinese government censored his blog documenting communism’s impact on citizens. The government also blocked his entry into Tibet, where he hoped to learn more about the contrast between urban and rural daily life. But government constraints ended and authentic learning began when Harvey Lewis, III, returned to his classroom at Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts equipped with first-hand experiences from his Fund for Teachers fellowship last June.

After teaching social studies for ten years, Lewis was dissatisfied with students’ “textbook version” of China. He wanted to provide lessons that furthered students’ understanding of, competitiveness against and, ultimately, cooperation with their Chinese counterparts. To do so, he needed to move beyond facts and figures to more authentic learning about China’s government and people. Seeking out and obtaining a $5,000 Fund for Teachers grant, Lewis spent the month of June exploring the economic and political climate in one of the most influential countries on the planet.

Lewis meeting a monk in Mongolia after being denied travel to Tibet; Stopping to visit with a local on his way to Hua Shan Mountain, one of five sacred Taoist mountains.

“My Fund for Teachers fellowship took me by planes, high speed trains, bicycles, boats, camels, and foot across Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, and Mongolia, but speaking with ordinary Chinese about their lives, challenges, and dreams proved to be the most rewarding experiences,” said Lewis. “My goal was to immerse myself in Chinese culture and history to then share the material I collected with students in my government and economics classes. It’s easy to label China as a homogeneous state with government-mandated uniformity. But my photographs, videos, and personal accounts from China are helping students develop a greater appreciation of China’s complex society.”

Lewis’ itinerary included observing schools, interviewing teachers, touring sites, and exploring the architecture and lifestyles of Shanghai’s increasingly affluent middle class. He also visited Yanan to see the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party from 1936 to 1947, a major Communist pilgrimage destination. After his passport was rejected on the border of Tibet, Lewis cycled through Mongolia to experience the slower paced life characterized by rural farms and Buddhist monasteries.

In addition to daily sharing examples from his odyssey, Lewis also models life-long learning for his students. “Students appreciate the authenticity of first-hand accounts and have evidenced a desire to learn as much as they can from my fellowship,” said Lewis. “I also serve as an example to my students, demonstrating the exciting opportunities available to them by exploring and immersing themselves in another culture.”

Lewis is one of 10 Cincinnati teachers who used approximately $50,000 in Fund for Teachers grants to embark on self-designed learning odysseys last summer as scholars, researchers, and adventurers. Now in its second year of funding teacher grants in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area in collaboration with Strive Partnership, Fund for Teachers invites all eligible teachers to apply online for 2012 summer grants. The deadline for applications is January 27, 2012.

For more information, visit fundforteachers.org or “like” us on Facebook.

Permian Basin K-12 Educators Eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants

Teachers: Design Your Ideal Summer Odyssey & Bring Learning Back to Students

(September 30, 2011) HOUSTON – Venture capitalists for teachers – that describes Fund for Teachers. But instead of investing in innovative ideas, Fund for Teachers invests in innovative teachers. This national nonprofit invites eligible educators to propose their ideal learning experience through an online application beginning October 1. If selected, teachers receive up to $10,000 to put their plans into action during summer 2012.

“The starting point for a Fund for Teachers fellowship is a curious teacher seeking opportunities to grow personally and professionally,” explained Karen Kovach-Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “With Fund for Teachers grants, these teachers then pursue experiences that inspire classrooms and motivate the students shaping our world.”

Unlike other teacher grant opportunities, Fund for Teachers puts virtually no limitations on teachers’ requests. Any destination or discipline is fair game, as evidenced by the 433 teachers from across America who traveled in 116 countries on 7 continents last summer. Since 2001, 4,500 teachers leveraged $15.9 million in FFT grants into global odysseys that perpetually impact students, classrooms and communities back home.

“Embarking on an educational adventure that I designed brought my teaching full circle and made me the student again,” said Kylee Shipp, teacher at Silverton School of Expeditionary Learning in Silverton, CO. “By exploring the relationship between art and history in Mexico, I was able to take the time to think about my own learning processes and subsequently construct culturally relevant content for my students. Fund for Teachers provided me with the amazing gift of inspiration that I now share with my diverse population of students.”

Fund for Teachers’ founding sponsor, Apache Corporation, invited the nonprofit to make this opportunity available to Permian Basin teachers.

“Teachers are charged with preparing students with the requisite tools and skills to become our civic and corporate leaders of tomorrow,” said John Christmann, Apache Corporation’s regional vice president for the Permian Basin. “That’s why Apache believes in supporting teachers’ life-long learning. We know that teachers are preparing our next generation of global citizens.”

Application guidelines and helpful tips accompany the online application at fundforteachers.org. The deadline for submitting proposals is January 27, 2012; candidates are notified by April.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that impact their practice, their students and their schools. For more information, visit www.fundforteachers.org.

Following in the Footsteps of a World War II Veteran

Humble, TX, Teacher Retraces Namesake’s Steps – from Point of Engagement to Final Resting Place – to Make Soldiers’ Sacrifices Relevant for Students

(Houston) November 10, 2011 – On June 5, 1944, Silas DuFrene stood on the Cliffs of Dover facing his ultimate fate across the English Channel. Sixty-seven years later, his nephew and namesake stood in the same place, pondering his uncle’s sacrifice and preparing for a 15-day pilgrimage to help students at Eagle Springs Elementary tackle the question “Why do soldiers fight and serve?”

Armed with an $4,100 Fund for Teachers grant last June, Silas DuFrene retraced a World War II soldier’s journey–from his uncle’s engagement point in England to his final resting place in Epinal, France. DuFrene’s itinerary included London’s Imperial War Museum, soldiers’ barracks and the British Museum’s WWII archives. He followed his uncle’s journey to the beaches of Normandy, adding stops at the Hôtel Meruice, a Nazi command post during the occupation of Paris, and the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation commemorating the memory of more than 200,000 people sent to concentration camps. Silas also left for Krakow, Poland, to experience Auschwitz. His tour ended where his uncle’s did, at the American Cemetery in Epinal, France.

“At the end of my fellowship, I understood why our soldiers go to war and fight. To protect the life of another is truly a high calling.”

“I wanted students to understand why soldiers, like my uncle, fought and died in this war. But helping young children visualize the people and events of World War II as real and relevant, rather than facts in a book, is daunting,” explained DuFrene. “On my fellowship, I visited key places and collected information to help students grasp our soldiers’ dedication to protecting those who are unable to protect themselves.”

“I can recall the moment I walked onto the D-Day beaches in Normandy. It was almost as if I could hear the chaos of that military invasion nearly 70 years ago,” said DuFrene. “I felt such a sense of such gratitude for the sacrifice those men displayed that day. As I walked around the memorial cemetery, I the true enormity of that sacrifice overwhelmed me. And after visiting Auschwitz at the end of my fellowship, I understood why our soldiers go to war and fight. To protect the life of another is truly a high calling.”

Three New States Eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants

For the first time, national nonprofit Fund for Teachers invites Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi educators to design ideal summer odyssey and bring learning back to students. Teachers propose what they want to learn and where; if selected, Fund for Teachers awards up to $10,000 to make it happen.

Houston, TX (PRWEB) November 09, 2011

Venture capitalists for educators – that describes Fund for Teachers. But instead of investing in innovative ideas, Fund for Teachers invests in innovative teachers. And this year, for the first time, this national nonprofit invites educators from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to propose their ideal learning experience. If selected, teachers receive up to $10,000 to put their plans into action during summer 2012.

Unlike other teacher grant opportunities, Fund for Teachers puts virtually no limitations on teachers’ requests. Any destination or discipline is fair game, as evidenced by the 433 teachers from across America who traveled in 116 countries on 7 continents last summer. Since 2001, 4,500 teachers leveraged $15.9 million in FFT grants into global odysseys that perpetually impact students, classrooms and communities back home.

Fund for Teachers’ founding sponsor, Apache Corporation, invited the nonprofit to make this opportunity available to teachers in these three areas.

“The starting point for a Fund for Teachers fellowship is a curious teacher seeking opportunities to grow personally and professionally,” explained Karen Kovach-Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “With Fund for Teachers grants, these teachers then pursue experiences that inspire classrooms and motivate the students shaping our world.”

“Traveling to five European countries in a three-week time frame afforded me the experiences I needed to fully believe in myself and strengthened the dynamic of the interaction with my students,” said Margaret Atkinson, teacher at Northwestern Middle School in Zachary, LA. With her Fund for Teachers grant, Atkinson traversed Europe researching individuals’ resistance to intolerance during World War II to demonstrate for students the power of an individual and the dangerous implications of intolerance.

“Embarking on an educational adventure that I designed brought my teaching full circle and made me the student again,” said Kylee Shipp, teacher at Silverton School of Expeditionary Learning in Silverton, CO. “By exploring the relationship between art and history in Mexico, I was able to take the time to think about my own learning processes and subsequently construct culturally relevant content for my students. Fund for Teachers provided me with the amazing gift of inspiration that I now share with my diverse population of students.”

“Teachers are charged with preparing students with the requisite tools and skills to become our civic and corporate leaders of tomorrow,” said Jon Jeppesen, Apache Corporation’s executive vice president for Gulf of Mexico operations. “That’s why Apache believes in supporting teachers’ life-long learning. We know that teachers are preparing our next generation of global citizens.”

Application guidelines and helpful tips accompany the online application at fundforteachers.org. The deadline for submitting proposals is January 27, 2012; candidates are notified by April.

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the world that impact their practice, their students and their schools. For more information, visit fundforteachers.org.

Teacher Gets His Hands on Subject

The Orleans Record
by Jim Fuller
Sports Writer

NEWPORT CITY — When Chris Shaffer accepted a position to teach science at North Country Union High School three years ago, he found himself having to learn a whole new ballgame.

A plastics engineer major at UMass-Lowell, Shaffer would be teaching earth science. He was also being groomed to take over the cross country running program at the school as long-time coach Lisa Grout was stepping down.

His passion for running and his desire to understand his subject matter led Shaffer on a journey that wound up among the glaciers, fjords and lava tubes of Iceland this summer.

Shaffer was in Boston to compete in the Boston Marathon in April 2010 when he was struck by the magnitude of the volcanic activity in Iceland. Eyjafjallajökull, pronounced “AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh,” is a glacial volcano that began erupting in 2009. Beginning on April 14, 2010, the erupting began in earnest, halting air travel throughout Europe for six days.

With the marathon set for April 19, many would-be competitors from Europe never made it to Boston.

“It was basically creating a footprint in my mind,” Shaffer recalled. “What causes volcanoes? Earthquakes?”

Shaffer learned that Iceland was situated on a plate boundary — a boundary that separates the North American and Eurasian plates. Because of this, Iceland is in a constant state of “geologic happenings,” Shaffer said.

A glacier lagoon sits in the south of Iceland, along Vatnajökull, Europe’s largest glacier.

“I’ve never taken an earth science course,” he said. “Now I’m tasked with teaching students a subject I’m not 100 percent familiar with.

“It was hard to get excited about something I hadn’t put my hands on.”

Through Fund For Teachers, Shaffer applied for a grant that would allow him to study the happenings in Iceland first hand. “You have to correlate how you are going to bring it back into the classroom,” Shaffer said. “It’s an opportunity for the individual to create their own structured learning.”

By early April, he knew he had been selected and by the end of June, he was on his way to Keflavik, a city just west of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital.

Shaffer and his wife, Sarah, have two children, Morgan, age 3, and Ryan, 5 months. He said he went alone as the timing wasn’t right for the family to make a vacation out of it.

Shaffer drove the 830-mile Ring Road, so named as it takes one around the country. As Iceland is barely south of the Arctic Circle, Shaffer had sunlight 24 hours a day.

“I never had to worry about trying to locate a place before dark,” he said. “I tried to keep my body on the correct time.”

Shaffer said he had no “real time limits.” He was on his own, without the need to meet others or make it to meetings. His days were filled with hiking and exploring.

Shaffer said he was struck by “how different the landscape was from place to place. It was drastically different every few kilometers — a lava field; then pasture land; then a fjord; rocky slopes; dormant volcanoes; pseudo volcanoes,” he said.

“I got to put my hands on this,” he said. “You get to be on a glacier and be around a lava tube. Being around a plate boundary — it’s not a clean cut. It’s like taking a sandwich and pulling it apart. This has definitely excited me for earth science. With geology, it’s hard to pass on the excitement and enthusiasm without having the experience. You can only get so far in the book. I actually took the stuff out of the books and put it in my hands.”

“From having lived in New England, it all seemed mythical almost,” he continued. “You don’t think of Iceland and say, ‘Let’s go vacation there.’ It definitely feels Arctic and remote, but it wasn’t that bad. Being there, you can start wrapping your head around what’s involved in the culture. Everyone is so friendly.”

Not only did Shaffer find time to keep up his running, he also competed in a local 5-kilometer race.

“It was kind of hokey,” he said. “But it was really neat to see how much other races are just like ours.”

Shaffer said one aspect of it he found amusing was how almost everyone participated in an orchestrated Zoomba-like warm-up, led by people on stages that rose 20 or more feet above the crowd.

After the race in which he finished 10th, Shaffer hung out with several of the other runners in a hot tub. He said almost every town in Iceland has a swimming pool, public hot tub, and water slides due to the country’s geothermal conditions.

“It was a neat way to experience that other interest of mine,” he said.

Houston Fellows Appear on HISD Student Achievement Show

2011 Houston Fellows Kristina Long, Terri Marsh and José Torres appeared on HISD School Board President Paula Harris’ television program, “Student Achievement Show”. They shared information about their summer projects, implementation plans, and how other teachers can benefit from a Fund for Teachers fellowship.

Thank you Kristina, Terri and Jose for representing Fund for Teachers!

Oklahoma Fellows Tour German Auto Plants

by Silas Allen
The Stillwater News Press

STILLWATER, Okla. — As a part of a program designed to help teachers bring the world into their classrooms, two automotive instructors at Meridian Technology Center took a trip over the summer to the birthplace of the automobile.

David Shields and Shelly Smith went to Germany recently to tour auto manufacturing facilities there. The trip was funded by a grant from Fund for Teachers, a program designed to enrich K-12 education.

The two instructors toured auto manufacturing facilities in Stuttgart and Munich. During the trip, they toured plants owned by BMW, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

One of the more interesting aspects of the trip, Shields said, was seeing the differences in the attitudes toward cars between Germany and the United States. While the Germans take as much pride in their cars as Americans, their driving habits are different, particularly in urban areas, he said.

When Germans commute into a major city, rather than driving to their place of work, they’ll typically park in a commuter lot on the outskirts of the city and take a train into the city, Shields said.

That style of commuting is possible, Smith said, because light rail systems in major urban areas like Stuttgart and Munich are so comprehensive. Unlike urban areas in middle America like Dallas and Kansas City, urban areas in Germany are designed to allow commuters to get anywhere in the city limits without the use of a car.

“If you knew what train to take, you could get there,” Smith said.

Each of the factories Shields and Smith toured included a museum chronicling the history of the company. Those museums included details on how existing technology came to be, Shields said.

For example, he said, the Mercedes-Benz museum has a display that includes the world’s first automobile, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. Being in the same room as that kind of history was a great experience, Shields said.

The museum did a good job of explaining how engineers had produced the car simply by trying their options, finding out what didn’t work and learning from their mistakes, he added; one of the exhibits in the museum lists ideas that ultimately failed, but allowed the engineers eventually to build a working product.

“It was just trial and error,” he said.

Smith said he was also impressed with the so-called fit and finish, or alignment, spacing and security of the car’s components. By today’s standards, he said, it might not be impressive, but considering the engineers were working with a brand-new product and using 19th-century technology, the car was remarkably well assembled.

Although they recently returned from the trip, Shields and Smith said they’re already working to incorporate lessons they learned in Germany into their courses. The two took about 1,200 photos during the trip, and they said they hope to be able to use them to show students what the inside of a German auto manufacturing plant looks like.

Another idea they hope to incorporate into their classes is the use of virtual tours. Many German auto factories offer online virtual tours of their facilities, as do several factories in the United States and Japan. Those tours could allow the students to compare an American auto plant — for instance, the Ford F-150 plant in Dearborn, Mich. — with one in Europe to see what methods are different and what are similar.

As important as it is to show students the inner workings of German factories, it’s also important to give them an idea of the culture surrounding the German auto industry, Shields said. To that end, he said, the two instructors won’t simply be giving students an overview of auto factories, but they’ll also be discussing German culture and geography.

Fund for Teachers Accepting Applications for 2012 Teacher Grants

Fund for Teachers invests in PreK-12 educators by funding teacher-designed fellowships that catalyze authentic learning in the classroom.

Read Press Release