State teachers to travel the globe, thanks to foundation grant awards

Nora Froeschle, Staff Writer
Chron.com

Teacher Regina Driver, who is originally from Great Britain, said it’s funny, but she had to come to Owasso to finally visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.

“I grew up in southwest London, but I never ever had an opportunity to study in Stratford-upon-Avon,” said Driver, who teaches junior and senior literature at Owasso High School.

That is, until now. Three organizations awarded more than 100 Oklahoma teachers such as Driver a total of $350,000 in grant money to travel and study this summer.

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, said it is the second year that the grant program has been offered statewide.

The foundation, along with the Tulsa Community Foundation and the national organization Fund for Teachers, have awarded 69 grants to 108 Oklahoma teachers.

“To help teachers expand their knowledge is one of the best ways that we feel like we can further our mission,” Stratton said. “It is respecting them for what they are doing and recognizing that they need nurturing too.”

Driver said she will spend a week studying at the Globe Theatre in London and a week at Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Shocked by the news that she would receive the fellowship grant, Driver shared it with her students.

“I was amazed at how happy they were,” she said.

Stratton said teachers often have life-changing experiences when they study a subject up close.

“If you’ve had a teacher that has had that experience, she brings, or he brings so much more,” she said.

Elisa Heroux, who teaches earth science at Jenks Middle School, is going to Hawaii to study active volcanoes with the Kona Science Project.

The project is a workshop put on by two geologists who live there, she said.

“They’re going to let us get right up there on the crater,” she said.

Heroux believes she will be able to get closer to lava flows than if she were a tourist.

“I plan on taking a lot of pictures,” she said.

Broken Arrow teacher Beverly Webb said traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, and Auschwitz, Poland, will help her build a curriculum for teaching about the Holocaust and World War II.

“I’m really excited. I’ve actually been thinking about it most of the year,” said Webb, who teaches sixth-grade world history at Centennial Middle School.

Webb will visit the cemetery in St. Petersburg where at least 200,000 are buried.

“It’s basically a mass grave,” she said. “The Nazis laid siege to Leningrad for 900 days, approximately, and so a lot of people died from the shelling and from starvation.”

Webb, whose class did art projects that expressed their personal feelings about the Holocaust, will also visit Auschwitz, where more than 4 million people, mostly Jews, were executed between 1940 and 1945.

“I hope to be able to take my impressions of what I see and hear and be able to sit down and think of thought-provoking lessons,” Webb said.

Stratton said the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence wants to create its own endowment to fund the program in the years to come.