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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Amy Brewer and David Brewer, teachers at Northbrook Middle School in Mendota, IL, used their FFT grant to join an educator’s tour of New Zealand this summer. They created this slide show of their experiences to share with the local school board this week.

Amy and David designed this fellowship to research geology and the Maori culture to develop cross disciplinary lessons that inspire students to learn the work of scientists, writers and researchers, and to infuse a global perspective into the core curriculum. 

Our 2015 grant application opens on October 1.

To encourage fellow teachers to apply for FFT grants, 2014 Chicago Fellow Gustavo Soto created this video of his odyssey in Japan. A math teacher at Daniel Boone Elementary, Gustavo designed his FFT fellowship to examine mathematics instruction at five Japanese schools through a lesson study immersion program with Tokyo Gakugei University to provide school-wide professional development that replicates successful models in Chicago.

The 2015 grant application opens on October 1.

"This summer, I traveled to Ghana for one month to study the significance of Adinkra symbols in Ghanaian culture. I also volunteered with students at Bantuma School to create a book of their personal stories that relate to the universal values associated with Adinkra symbols. These symbols, which represent proverbs and values, are an integral component of Ghanaian identity and culture. My goal was to deepen the connection between my students and Bantuma students through a collaborative book project on Adinkra symbols.

I began my fellowship in Ntonso, Ghana to study the history and ancient art of Adinkra printing with David Boamah, the director of the Adinkra Village. I had the opportunity to carve the symbols onto calabash, pound the bark from the Badie Tree to prepare the dye, and print my own Adinkra cloth. For the next three weeks, I worked with 60 students at Bantuma School and Christ Cares School as they authored and illustrated beautiful books on Adinkra and how these symbols impact their lives. Through these stories, I came to understand so much about their struggles, hopes and dreams.

I now have 60 personal stories written by my Ghanaian students on how the values associated with Adinkra have impacted their lives. I also brought back 25 hand-carved Adinkra stamps made from calabash to be used for the Adinkra lessons with my students, who are beginning to write their own personal narratives on Adinkra to share with their Ghanaian friends and on an international book club website, I will present an Adinkra workshop at the online Global Education Conference in November and at the Museum of African Diaspora (MOAD) in December. My fellowship also impacts our school community. The African Friendship Club at my school will receive pen pal letters and necklaces made by the Ghanaian students with whom I worked, and we will raise funds for Bantuma School. I will teach a class on Adinkra in our after school program.”

Sue Gonzalez, teacher at Taylor Elementary in San Francisco, designed her Fund for Teachers fellowship to study the Adinkra symbols with an expert in Ntonso, Ghana, and then volunteer with a sister school in Elmina to create an illustrated Adinkra book that presents universal values and shared perspectives of Ghanian peers.

"As a library teacher, my life is summarized by the books I read. Since the age of ten I fell in love with the Sadako and The Thousand Paper Cranes. This Japanese girl proved that peace can be sought out in any event, no matter how tragic. She also taught me the power of a peace crane. For the last ten years I collected origami peace cranes because of Sadako’s story.

This summer I had the opportunity to visit Sadako’s memorial in Hiroshima, Japan. I visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum to learn about the tragic effects of the atom bomb; partook in the Peace Ceremony to remember those lost by the bomb; set lanterns in the river as a plea for world peace, and listened to stories from relatives of survivors.

This fellowship strengthened my belief that every country, every community wants world peace. We are all human and make mistakes, but if we work together we can be one step closer to a more peaceful and loving world. With the origami paper purchased in Japan, my students will each make a peace crane. When we reach 1,000 we will string them up in the school as a symbol of peace in our school, city, country and world. In addition, after seeing the river filled with lanterns for peace, students asked if we could create our own peace lanterns to set in the lake. I am thrilled my students are suggesting additional projects for my lesson unit. My students are actively involved in their learning. I am now looking into finding materials to create peace lanterns as well as peace cranes.”

Carolyn Sauer, librarian at Chicago’s Burbank Elementary, designed her fellowship to research Hiroshima Japan’s role in World War II and attend annual Peace Day ceremonies to create a library unit that provides historical context on the effects of the atomic bomb and the heroic efforts of a young girl to create peace around the world as depicted in the novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

"My heart pounded as I yelled to the woman sitting atop the wooden barrier in frantic Spanish, "Are there any more bulls?" She smiled and shrugged her shoulders as if to say, "Wouldn’t you like to know?" So I continued clamoring toward the bull ring until I was safely shut inside, surrounded by the roaring crowd. Moments later the audience cheered and roared as I turned and saw a young bull tearing around the sandy circle. "They let the bulls back in?!" someone yelled. I shrugged my shoulders with a smile as if to say, "Wouldn’t you like to know?"

The bull one was just one of many highlights of my tour by car over 2,500 kilometers of Spanish countryside. In the wet, coastal towns of A Coruna and Santiago de Compostela I heard the native Galician tongue, in Bilbao, San Sebastian, and Pamplona the locals spoke mostly Basque, in Barcelona and Valencia my ears were bathed in Catalonian, and in Madrid the nasal lisp of Castillian was the norm.

I walked the hills Cervantes tread as he found his inspiration for Don Quixote, his fingerprints dotting every stall of tourism. I experienced the pandemonium Hemingway relished at the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona. I learned the proper way to order tapas while surrounded by Spaniards cheering for the World Cup. I saw genuine Picassos and Goyas next to the works of Velasquez and Ribera. I witnessed the singular site that is Franco’s tomb.

In Spain, I learned the true meaning of adventure.”

Ryan McMullin is the Spanish teacher at Caney Creek High School in Conroe, TX. He designed his Fund for Teachers fellowship to traverse Spain’s four major linguistic centers (Madrid for traditional Spanish, A Coruna for Galacian, Bilbao for Basque and Barcelona for Catalan) to experience cultural and linguistic diversity among European Spanish and convey to language students a proper appreciation of contemporary Spanish life. You can read more about his adventures on his blog.