Believing the teacher knows best how they can make a better impact in their classroom, Fund for Teachers awards fellowships for self-designed professional growth to PreK-12 teachers who recognize the value of inquiry, the power of knowledge, and their ability to make a difference.
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Today marks the 100th anniversary of “The War to End All Wars.” In an attempt to guide high school history students toward a world in which that moniker rings true, Christian Mann (Walker Valley High School - Cleveland, TN) obtained a Fund for Teachers grant to experience across French battlefields and museums the centennial commemoration of World War I. He explains his motivation below:

I teach World History, US History, and Contemporary Issues to 11th/12th grade. For them, WWI is arguably the least understood of struggles in a long and heinous history of human conflict. There was no “bad guy,” no rabid political dogma, no genocide; only a war responsible for combined civilian and infantry deaths of 16 million. A war which laid waste to the landscape of a centuries-old people, a war which had no logical beginning and an end assuring future conflict. How do I, as an educator, make any sense of WWI?

This guiding question motivated Christian’s historical quest for one week in June. His fellowship began where the conflict ended - Versailles, France, followed by a walking tour of related monuments in Amiens. The Somme battlefields constituted the next step of his research, where he studied archives, photographs, postcards and other documents at the Museum Historial de la Grande Guerre in Péronne and the Musée Somme in Albert. He also completed a 40 mile self-tour called the “Circuit of Rememberance,” with an MP3 audio-file description of multiple battles, memorials and cemeteries. His fellowship concluded in Ypres researching several seminal events: the first use of chemical weaponry in the history of war, the final major battle of 1914 and the Race to the Sea and the Christmas Truce.

This fellowship presented an opportunity to put a face to my lesson, to see history through new eyes. To interact with people, stories and the land and forge new connections with the events I know inside and out. Direct access to multiple primary sources tailored to the specific areas I visited now necessitates a complete revision of my curriculum. Hands on examination of documents, meaningful discussion with experts and interactions with communities still recovering from war and desolation dramatically increased my (and will consequently increase my students’) personal connection with the facts. A wealth of first hand experiences and increased frame of reference paves the way for a more extensive repertoire of knowledge from which to base content-rich, common-core focused.”

This fall, Christian plans to transfer these experiences to his students through multiple activities, such as:

  • Analyzing primary source data he collected to compare/contrast WWI attitudes with current sentiments on technological use/innovation;
  • Composing a lyrical narrative in any musical style discussing a related topic;
  • Engaging in cross-curricular readings of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis to study their fantastical re-telling of WWI experiences; and,
  • Conducting Skype chats with contacts Christian made during his fellowship.

“I have read and assigned many lessons on “The Great War” from pasteurized textbooks, but these do not always make it personal for a student within the sterile vacuum of a classroom,” said Christian. “My aim is to improve my ability as an educator, a story-teller and a facilitator to empower students towards empathy armed with an understanding of global interaction and their role in the world.”

It is far too rare for people to look at something—a building, a painting, an airplane—and really contemplate the mathematics that it took to make that object a reality. Mathematics? Really? Yes, mathematics. My sixth grade math students are no exception to this. More often than I would like, they think that their use for mathematics ends when they exit my classroom. I want to change their beliefs about the beauty, usefulness, and ubiquity of mathematics. I want them to begin to see mathematics in unexpected places, and I want them to ask questions about mathematics when answers cannot be found in their textbooks.

In order to change the culture of my classroom, the presuppositions of my students, and the testing focus of present-day math education, I will travel to Spain and Portugal to embark on a study tour of many overlooked and under-studied mathematical wonders. I will study, journal about, and document my findings while searching for greater connections to my own mathematics. In addition, I will find ways to meaningfully incorporate these buildings, inventions, and works of art into my classroom, teaching, and school on an ongoing basis.

 As a life-long mathematics student, I know that mathematics can sometimes feel like repetition of facts. This trip will allow me to experience mathematics in new and tangible ways. I will be able to touch the tilings in the Alhambra, to study the architecture of the Sagrada Familia, and to learn about ancient navigational tools and techniques. With Fund for Teachers, I can combine my academic interests in mathematics, its history, and its influence, with real-life, hands-on experiences. This fellowship will open my eyes, help me make deeper connections about the interconnectedness of mathematics and other disciplines, and improve my teaching by giving me new tools to inspire inquisitiveness in my own students.

- MacKenzie Rossi (P.S. 008 Robert Fulton, Brooklyn, & Math for America Fellow) designed her Fund for Teachers fellowship to investigate the Portuguese and Spanish use of geometry in art, architecture and nautical navigation to infuse math lessons with relevant artifacts and motivate students to develop a broader mathematical perspective of the world around them. She’s posting photographs of her findings on Instagram.

A teacher from Transitions Learning Center (Casper, WY) arrives at a NYSE Euronext-sponsored teacher workshop in New York City today to learn about the capital raising process and create a self-published text book covering the history and complexities of the stock market for consumer math/personal financial literacy students. She explains her choice of fellowship destinations below:

“I teach at an alternative education program, which students from the various high schools in the district attend, for numerous reasons, to recover credits. I want to prepare an academic curriculum for this new course that is educational and engaging for at-risk students, as well as relevant and rigorous. My students have varied impediments to their learning: homelessness, juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, transfers from other states, attendance delinquency, slow learners, etc. I believe all students can learn the concepts if I teach to their individual learning styles and interests. I want all students to reach their maximum educational potential and dream big for their future success.

All students enrolled in the school district who graduate in the year 2017 will be required to earn a half credit in Personal Financial Literacy, so I will create two projects for the new Personal Financial Literacy course that is beginning to be implemented. In addition, I plan to create a book titled The Quest for Stock Market Literacy. The book will contain QR bar codes which students can scan with an iPad or a smart phone to watch the video and experience the excitement of the New York Financial District. The book will contain formative projects that will help them master the concepts. My filming of the New York financial district will act as a tour guide and lead them on a virtual walk to give my students a realistic sense of the stock market exchanges.”

Two Fund for Teachers Fellows have their sights set on Hollywood, arriving at the Independent Student Media Summer Workshop for the coming week:

  • A teacher from Francis Tuttle Technology Center (Oklahoma City, OK) hopes to better understand all production phases of the filmmaking process and teach skills/strategies for student success in this industry; and,
  • A teacher from Perry High School (Perry, OH) wants to develop production skills in young film makers during an after school program targeting at-risk students.

Up the coast, a teacher from Watson Elementary (Little Rock, AR) also pursues a fellowship with an artistic flair, participating in a jazz workshop presented by renowned music educator/musician Doug Goodkin to identify child-friendly doorways into jazz and incorporate jazz standards, theory and improvisation into elementary music lessons.

Lights, Camera, Learn!

How does one “teach without teaching?” What does a school designed around problem solving look like? Can “How to Struggle” become a curricular component?

Aaron Kaswell, teacher at Brooklyn’s Middle School 88 and Math for America Fellow, today embarks on a quest to answer these questions. He begins a two-week apprenticeship with Tetsuya Miyamoto, the innovative Japanese teacher who created KenKen puzzles and opened his own school founded on logic and problem solving. Aaron designed this fellowship to learn Miyamoto’s unique teaching philosophy that engages all learners in problem solving techniques and design an entire curriculum around KenKen puzzles. Most of Aaron’s work will take place directly with Miyamoto at the school he founded in Tokyo - Miyamoto Sansuu Kyoushitsu - in the form of daily observation and debriefs with Miyamoto and his students.

KenKen is a numbers puzzle that requires both logic and arithmetic to solve. This makes it an ideal tool to develop problem solving skills. KenKen puzzles are now printed daily in the New York Times as well as over 100 other newspapers around the world. The puzzles come in seven different levels (from beginner 3x3 up to expert 9x9), so they are differentiated very well. Miyamoto has also developed an extra-curricular program built around his KenKen puzzles to train students further in problem solving.

"Self-directed learning and problem solving is such a powerful idea for students. My biggest professional goal every year is to learn how to teach problem solving better, and I believe Tetsuya Miyamoto is the expert in this area," explained Aaron. "He has tapped into the true meaning of education, in that he helps bring out that which is already inside students. He believes in allowing and teaching students how to struggle. With Miyamoto, I am hoping to learn these strategies to help my students understand their own learning process better and become more self-directed problem solvers. I expect his teaching to inspire and energize me. I expect it to bring big and small shifts in my preparation, questioning, and responsiveness to student struggles."

Follow Aaron’s fellowship on his blog and test your KenKen skills on the New York TimesCrossword & Games page.

(top photo courtesy of Mr. L’s Math blog; bottom photo: Aaron, Miyamoto and Aaron’s student at the Museum of Mathematics in New York City.)

A few Fund Facts about the Alaska Canada Highway:

  • The route crosses 1,500 miles from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, to Delta Junction, Alaska.
  • US soldiers completed the road 70 years ago through unmapped territory as a response to Pearl Harbor.
  • Described as “one of the greatest engineering feats in history” and “the last US frontier,” the highway enabled Americans to transport planes to Russia via a chain of airfields and remote airports.
  • Soldiers from black regiments built a highway bridge in record time, an achievement credited with helping end segregation in the US Army.

(And here’s the FUND part of the Fund Facts…)

  • Two teachers from Snowden International School at Copley (Boston, MA) begin traveling the ALCAN Highway today, visiting the Land-Lease Memorial and exploring the Aleutian Islands, to introduce US and World History students to the Aleutian Islands Campaign and the role Alaska played in World War II.

(photo courtesy of Facts courtesy of Anne Kostalas & The Guardian.)