FUND FOR TEACHERS

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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When I started teaching nine years ago, I had no Marshallese students in my school; I can’t remember any registered as little as five years ago. Last year, my school enrolled nearly 40 newly-arrived immigrants from the Marshall Islands. I knew nothing about this island country, so I began asking around my school and community and found that I was not alone. So, thanks to Fund for Teachers, I traveled to its capital to learn more about the Marshall Islands people, culture and lifestyle.

I spent twelve days in the Marshall Islands, touring private and public schools to compare these settings while discussing the status of Marshallese education with students and administrators. I visited a local woodworking trade school to research ways of inspiring struggling Marshallese students. I sat in on classes at the College of the Marshall Islands, where students presented their cultures and traditions, and I attend a painting class discussing Marshall Island folklore. Some of my last stops were at the Alele Museum, Tobolar Coconut Processing Plant and the U.S. Ambassador’s office.

Just walking around the atoll gave me a lot of information about the mindset and lifestyle of the people. Kids were always outside playing while the mothers were doing laundry or enjoying gossip among others in the community. Shop owners sat at cash registers eager to talk with those who walked in. Taxis sped by and stopped if you had the $.75 needed to get to your destination. For a sleepy little atoll in the middle off the Pacific Ocean, things never really seemed to stop moving.

When I started teaching I specifically wanted to teach in a multicultural school and this journey reaffirms that passion to work with a wide variety of students and families. Experiencing their way of life made me a more tolerant person and patient with my students. Observing how I was nervous and cautious with things I did not know reminds me of how kids feel. I now have authentic artifacts that will inspire my Iowa students while making my Marshallese students more comfortable in class. This fall, students will soon create circular weaving’s based on the artifacts I brought back with me. Students will compare and contrast the farming styles of the Marshall Islands vs. Iowa farms.  I am finalizing dates to travel to other schools in my district to present information on the Marshall Islands, as well.

Scott Lammar
Prescott Elementary - Dubuque, IA

Scott designed his Fund for Teachers fellowship to conduct an in depth investigation into the Marshall Islands’ culture, arts and education to develop a deeper understanding of one of the city’s fastest growing minority groups and expand student appreciation of their Marshallese peers. Read more about his experiences on his blog. Scott holds a masters of fine arts, as well as a masters in education. He is the visual arts teacher at his school and also teaches adjunct at Clarke University.

It is my belief that one cannot fully understand literature without understanding all of the related historical and social background. So for my fellowship, I was awarded the amazing opportunity to study the New England writers and poets, as well as the American Revolution.

After arriving in Boston, my first day was filled with exploring the town of Concord, MA. I was able to visit Walden Pond, The Old Manse, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s home, Louisa May Alcott’s home and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Being able to experience to landscape and homes of these authors made them come to life in a way that simply reading their works cannot fully convey. The next day, I visited Plimoth Plantation, which is a recreation of a 1600’s pilgrim village. The time period actors made this era really come to life. I also visited the Mayflower II and Plymouth Rock. The following day, I drove out to visit Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher’s Stowe’s homes. The Mark Twain house proved incredibly different than anything I expected. Afterwards, I visited the special collections at Jones Library in Amherst, MA, which has original works of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson. The last two days were spent in the city of Boston studying the American Revolution. I visited Longfellow’s home, walked the Freedom Trail, visited the USS Constitution, experienced the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum, and took a historical bus tour of the city of Boston. It was an unbelievable experience!

This experience reminded me what an awesome responsibility it is to be an educator and pass the history and literature of our nation onto the next generation. As a teacher, my job is reflected in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Sarah Garrett
Walker Valley High School - Cleveland, TN

(photos: Sarah visits Walden Pond and Louisa May Alcott’s home)

Sarah designed her fellowship to research the lives, surroundings and culture of early New England writers to gain deeper insight into their works and create literature lessons that will enhance students’ critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. You can learn more about her fellowship on her blog.

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.”

You can follow Christian’s fellowship through his blog that he maintained while in France and Belgium.

Christian has taught social studies in Cleveland, TN, for 12 yrs. His passion is to use history as a vehicle to challenge the ideology of status-quo with which many students enter the classroom, allowing them a safe environment in which to stretch and grow as both US and world citizens. When not teaching, Christian is also married and a father to three “amazing” children. On the side, Christian is a musician, writing and performing in Chattanooga and uses music in the classroom regularly.

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!