Teachers travel for summer

Matt Gleason
Tulsaworld.com

The national non-profit organization Fund For Teachers picked up the tab for almost 100 Oklahoma teachers to experience the world this summer. Now it’s just a matter of turning memories into ready-made inspiration.

“The more teachers can experience their subject matter, the better equipped they are to bring it alive in the classroom for their students,” explained Mary Jo Othon, a Bishop Kelley science teacher.

Chilling out
Othon traveled to Iceland, where glaciers and volcanoes meet on an island not much bigger than Oklahoma, with a population roughly the size of Tulsa.

For 10 days, Othon witnessed, among a great many things, the power of geothermal energy – it’s “abundant, clean and very inexpensive,” she said.

Beyond admiring its earthly wonders, Othon reveled in an Icelandic juke-joint chilled to minus-8 degrees Celsius.

She chronicled her adventures at Tulsaworld.com/Icelandtrip.

Breathing deep

Art and yoga teacher Cynthia Brown left Tulsa behind for the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Mass.

“I learned to chant in Sanskrit, how to adjust students’ yoga postures and how to do partner yoga,” she said. “I also learned many different breathing techniques.”

And how will that help her students at Project 12 Alternative High School?

“My research will benefit students, because I am incorporating movement and breath into my art classes,” she said. “My goal is to inspire students to establish and maintain a lifetime of wellness, and to develop focus and concentration in order to enhance learning and creativity.

“I believe yoga helps students practice self-control and self-reflection by remaining still and quiet.”

Making a difference

Laurie Smith, the library media specialist for Mayo Demonstration School, toured private and public schools in Cape Town, South Africa.

“I visited five schools while I was there, and have set up formal pen-pal relationships with two of the schools and my students at Mayo,” she explained. “There is also a chance that we will more informally interact with the other three schools.”

Mayo also is set to host a South Africa Day.

“I hope that (the students) will be able to get a good overview of the culture of Cape Town,” Smith said.

Looking back on her trip, Smith will particularly remember venturing into the townships.

“There are many among the masses in poverty, among the alcoholics, and abusive, that are beautiful, perseverant, and even hopeful,” she said. “They are resilient and hard-working.

“However, the need is overwhelming (because of the many AIDS orphans, child-led families, the large unemployment rate, poor education, etc.). But if you look at individuals and do what you can to be of help, it is powerful to see that one person can make a difference.”

Rock-solid

Fourth-grade teacher Maria Shead spent 40 days at Wyoming’s Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries, a Christian outdoor leadership education and wilderness adventure program.

During those 40 days, the 26-year-old learned about many things, such as rock climbing, mountaineering, back-country cooking and teamwork. “The biggest thing I took away was in endurance and determination,” the Victory Christian School teacher explained. “I have a greater understanding of how to encourage a student to conquer the things they struggle with.”

This year, Shead’s classroom theme is mountaineering and outdoors. And the students have already started nature journals.

On the first day of school, Shead showed her students a grainy video she made while in the wilderness.

“Even though it was really dark in the video, the kids were thrilled,” she recalled. “At the end of the day, I asked a boy how his day went. He exclaimed that it was the coolest day ever.”

Shead’s video and pictures can be found online at tulsaworld.com/sheadtrip.