Teachers Turn Student Through Summer Grants

Pat McGroarty
Special To The Reporter

As area students head to beaches and ball fields during the vacation months of July and August, teachers from 33 Boston public schools will selflessly devote their time off to becoming students themselves.

Well, sort of.

Eight Dorchester teachers will be among 47 pedagogues awarded summer study grants through the Boston Plan for Excellence. Now in its second year as a joint initiative between Boston Public Schools and the Fund For Teachers/Boston, the program provides educators with the opportunity to escape the classroom and deepen understanding of their field as students are deepening their summer tans.

The 47 teachers were awarded a total of $172,493 in grants to help them reach research destinations in 24 countries and 20 states. One neighborhood resident and eight teachers at Dorchester schools are included in the group whose plans feature a fascinating mix of subjects, destinations, and goals.

Dorchester native Martha Glavin Kempe of Mather Elementary school is bound for Florence to see some of world’s most famous works of art. A visual arts teacher, visiting Florence has been a lifelong goal for Kempe.

Italy is also the next stop for Dot resident and Hyde Park High School teacher Christine Copeland, who plans to follow her muse through English and Italian cities that influence the life and work of William Shakespeare. The English teacher will begin in England’s Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, before heading to the Italian cities of Rome, Venice and Verona to study towns that set the stage for romances and tragedies like “Romeo and Juliet.”

Speaking of romance, Courtney Dahill and Lisa Tarnetino form the Murphy K-8 school will be traveling to another bastion of romance language as they study creative writing in Barcelona, Spain.

Stateside, Winthrop Elementary School teacher Carolyn Hardy will explore the scientific and historical significance of the Grand Canyon. Through her personal tour she will create a virtual tour for her students: “My students have limited cognitive and other skills, and I need to use non-traditional means to reach them,” explains Hardy.

Laina Jones, a humanities teacher at Harbor Point Middle School, will also be traveling cross-country as she investigates Girls’ Rites of Passage (GROP) programs.

“I have been co-director of the GROP program at my school for three years,” says Jones, whose first stop will be Detroit, Michigan, “and visiting other sites will give me the opportunity to talk with girls from all over the country about their experiences.”

Closer to home, Marcia Young of the Lee Elementary School will follow a life-long passion for knitting to a five day workshop in New York’s Finger Lakes. Young hopes techniques she learns at the camp will help her incorporate knitting into a story telling unit for her kindergarten class next fall.

As Young spins a yarn or two just hours from Boston, Sally Wattles of Dever Elementary School will be a world away on the South Pacific Island of Tahiti. An art teacher fascinated by 19th century Impressionism, Wattles will study the tropical locale that helped Paul Gauguin change the art world.