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.”