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A Meeting Of Great Minds: Fund For Teachers

October 14, 2010 1:09 am Category: Entertainment, News 1 Comment A+ / A-

A dozen remarkable rural teachers were flown in (or they drove ) from Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Vermont to meet together for the first time and to present their incredible summer experiences as Fund for Teacher Fellows. They were a mixture of a Latin teacher and Spanish teacher, math teacher, and English teacher. They were third, fourth, fifth and sixth grade teachers
I was proud to sit at the dinner table with this bunch on Friday night in an establishment just off Church Street serving meals built around local produce. The conversations were excited exchanges about their professions, their summer adventures and what they wanted for the future. They branched occasionally into gardening and cultural differences from one state to another. They praised the approach the Fund for Teachers grant allowed them. It was acutely obvious that they-through this summer journey-felt genuinely valued. That is the gift of power that the Fund for Teachers process gives. More importantly, it seems to be a true change and not just a shot of one-day-in-service adrenalin.
Dawn, from Maine, asked herself, “Where is my teaching area weakness?” and designed her grant application around the answer to make herself a stronger instructor. She now says that her fellowship allows her to “walk the talk.” She set up Skype opportunities for her students with the Dig organization she worked with on a Mammoth study. She was so proud when, on her dig, a world known archeologist turned to her and said, “you’re doing a very good job.” It took her breath away.
Pam, from Alabama, studied the locations of Fairy Tale origins and Battle Fields. She also had a persona experience in the town where her grandfather was killed in WWII. While there, she asked a local woman walking by to take her photograph. In conversation, she learned that the woman used to live in the town, but was just visiting on this day. The woman told how she was six years old when the Americans arrived in the town, and she remembered clearly when the citizens all said, “Liberated at last; the Americans are here.” Pam realized that the grandfather she never knew had sacrificed his life for these villagers and the woman telling the story is alive because of it. It was a powerful moment of real history and not a fairy tale.
Donna, from West Virginia, visited four different American rural school locations with different racial breakdowns than her own. She was anxious to share with her students in order that they be aware of how other rural communities live in racial diversity. Her school is 99% white and 1% African -American and Hispanic.
Anne and Angela, Vermont teachers, said they wanted to inspire their students to visit new places so they headed for Alaska to follow the salmon routes (they study salmon paths with their students) and to learn from a master totem pole carver. They plan for students to carve a pole and they are creating a sister exchange with a school in Alaska.
Breigh and Kristy, from Louisiana, did Da Vinci-style journals on their journeys. One worked from a math and science perspective and the other the language arts point of view. They want to inspire their students to be the next great thinker. They have started a professional development travel grant for teachers in their district and have raised enough to send one to a conference out of state. Many of their fellow teachers have never left Louisiana.
Bob, a Vermont teacher, wants to help students discover their defining moments or help them recognize them when they do happen. His plan happened when a Hungarian guitar maker told him about his “moment” that happened at age six. Bob built a rosewood guitar and is teaching his students to make guitars and mountain dulcimers.
Becky, from Missouri, said her students live in the town where Laura Ingles Wilder lived. To have her students appreciate it more, she followed the Wilder family trails and visited the places in the book that actually exist. It has already given the children a pride in their hometown and has encouraged reading.
James, another energetic Vermont teacher, traveled to Greece and Italy and said he was previously happy to be solitary in his teaching because it was comfortable. The fellowship has shown him that cross-curricular interaction can foster even more learning. He wants to write a play to teach his elementary students about what he learned. He wants the “connection to learning to be fun.”
Mary Ann, a brilliant Latin teacher from North Carolina (and a UVM graduate), told about visiting Italy and the Cambridge Latin Course. Along with sharing a larger worldview with her students who have a limited one, she noticed as a byproduct that her students had more respect for her teaching and subject matter because of her travels. Students often don’t understand the pay scale teachers are willing to live with and this trip showed them that a lifetime of educating oneself is what teachers want for themselves and their students.
Mike, also from North Carolina, went from Washington DC and Virginia to California to figure out how algebra could fit in the guarded state curriculum for his class and also be a linier business model in environmental job training. He worked closely with Earth Day Network. He learned that renewable energy is still a very small industry and not well understood. “The times are changing,” he said,”-slowly!”
Darketa, from Louisiana, made a trip to Mexico and exercised her language as well as immersing herself in the culture. Her actual destination was Playa del Carmen. Discussion with Darketa revealed that she sees 800 students a week in 30 minute class experiences with Spanish. She is given a budget of $150. She was a lovely woman.
Paul, an English from Maine, went to Toronto for a Writers Summer Program and realized he had worlds to bring back to his students. Just as important, he had ideas and networking possibilities for many of the other Fellows. He was an amazing resource on multiple topics.
What I could see in this group at the end was honest, valuable and genuine exchange that had integrity and mattered. They listened to each other. They were engaged. They gave ideas to each other. Because they had been through different journeys but for the same right reasons and following a similar process, they knew each other. They sparkled with ideas and new confidence.
At the end, they got in a circle and said things they thought before the fellowship , but now they thought:
I don’t have to retire to do these wonderful things that matter …
I’m not all by myself. I have a new group of friends to help me…
I learned so much and have been inspired by this circle of influence …
More school than mine do good things …
I used to feel like my learning ended at the classroom door, now I know that’s where it starts …
I thought I couldn’t possibly relate to so many teachers from so many places, but I can and it is wonderful …
I realize that rural schools face different problems and need different projects …
My best adventures aren’t over! …
(From an administrator) I thought all groups of Fellows were bound to have a couple of duds in them, but now I know that’s not true! …
We all have THE classroom! Let ME seek out my learning …
Math and science are interesting …
We all have our own unique challenges. We don’t have to match. We all have something in common.
These are happy teachers. They meet together as collaborators. They have a valued voice. They are given opportunity to design their own educational mission. They are treated by Fund for Teachers and Rural School and Community Trust with appreciation and respect. They didn’t have to reinvent themselves for the grant they got. They defined and designed and when granted, the message was that they were valued and trusted professionals.
The old gentleman who founded Apache Oil from scratch and built it from nothing, created Fund for Teachers because a teacher made a difference in his life. Whatever the teacher did that spoke to him became Mr. Plank’s defining moment.
I was not at this Burlington meeting of teachers by accident. There is, in fact, a family connection. My daughter Perrin, Program Director for Fund for Teachers, invited me to come along for the ride as I was once an honorary Fund for Teachers Fellow myself. That was before she ever worked there, but the appearance of chickens and eggs is hard to be sure of. Perrin, in fact, is the one who first found me information about Fund for Teachers. Then they found her. The rest is history.
Vermont teachers who are interested in applying for a grant from Fund for Teachers need to know that the only partners in Vermont are schools aligned with Rural School and Community Trust or EL, Expeditionary Learning. All of these organizations can be found on the internet.
The Yoh Theatre Players are pleased to present Sarah Ruhl’s EURYDICE on October 1 and 2 at 7:30 PM and again on October 3 at 5:30 PM. Tickets are on sale at the door: adults $6 and students $4.
Ruhl is a modernist with a fresh new voice that takes us into a surreal dream and gives us a “love letter to the world” (New York Times). This is a fabulous piece. Provocative and quirky, it is a mixutre of lightness and sorrow tinged with an Alice in Wonderland magic . Hard to describe. You gotta’ be there!

A Meeting Of Great Minds: Fund For Teachers Reviewed by on . A dozen remarkable rural teachers were flown in (or they drove ) from Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Ver A dozen remarkable rural teachers were flown in (or they drove ) from Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Ver Rating:

Comments (1)

  • John

    This is tremendous! Far too many people are myopic in their world view. They think flying an Earth Day Flag is all there is to appreciating bigger points of view.
    Just the personal discovery that other cultures have value and that “your way” is not the only way makes a well rounded human being.

    Bravo to you all.


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