Teachers Bring Global Summer Experiences Back to School

Amid last winter’s union battles and budget shortfalls, teachers across the country diligently crafted the ideal learning adventure and proposed it to Fund for Teachers, a national nonprofit committed to expanding the definition of teacher professional development. As a result, 433 applicants were awarded $1.6 million in teacher grants to pursue life-long learning in 161 countries on 7 continents this summer.

“I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to learn simply for the sake of learning,” said Pam Lindberg, teacher at North High School in Minneapolis, who used her Fund for Teachers grant to attend an educators’ institute at Oxford University. “Teachers sometimes get too consumed with taking classes to move up the pay scale or move toward another degree, missing the concept of growing intellectually and challenging ourselves mentally. I’m now committed to bringing my learning and intellectual growth to a different level. This fellowship was the gift of a lifetime.” Lindberg plans to leverage her experiences to help students develop their own opinions, analysis and evaluation in literacy.

Seth Rader, teacher at New York City’s James Baldwin School, designed his fellowship to observe human rights and education programs in Cuba. “In addition to obtaining content specific information for my curriculum, this fellowship provided the perfect environment for reflection on big questions regarding my teaching. It was, both personally and professionally, a landmark experience.” This fall, Rader plans to apply his fellowship experiences toward enriching a human rights and global economy curriculum.

The concept of treating teachers as professionals is a contested one, as public opinion of teachers continues to erode the prestige once associated with the position. For 11 years, however, Fund for Teachers has awarded more than $15 million in teacher grants, making it possible for them to pursue experiences that develop processes, skills and craftsmanship to directly impact student learning.

“During arguably one of the most turbulent times facing education, Fund for Teachers continues to invest in educators as professionals,” said Karen Kovach-Webb, Fund for Teachers’ executive director. “By empowering preK-12 educators to design their own professional development, Fund for Teachers validates teachers’ capabilities and catalyzes a ripple effect of learning in America’s classrooms.”

For these teachers returning from summer odysseys, the back to school checklist includes infusing curricula with anecdotal insights and primary sources picked up from field research, conferences and global tours. And their students can expect some pretty amazing “What I did this summer” stories – this time, from their teachers.

Teachers interested in applying for a 2012 Fund for Teachers grant are invited to check eligibility requirements and apply online beginning October 1, 2011, at fundforteachers.org.