Director of the Bradley Cleveland Public Education Foundation Lynn Voelz said the opportunity is made possible through the Fund for Teachers program.
“This is really an unparalleled opportunity for teachers,” Voelz said. “We don’t fund them exclusively for professional development. We fund them for academic projects they carry out in their classrooms.”
Fund For Teachers originally began as a Minnesota-based grant program offered by Raymond Plank. He wanted to provide teachers an opportunity to reach beyond their immediate circle and “enhance their skills.” The program has since helped thousands of teachers go on career-enriching trips.
Voelz read about the project online. She emailed Fund For Teachers to find out if it required any regional administrators. She received a response saying the two local school systems had been awarded $40,000.
She was floored. Excitement quickly followed on the heels of shock. Voelz recognized how beneficial the opportunity could be for local teachers.
“I think the criteria you can’t measure in education is the relationship between a student and a teacher, and the passion a teacher has for what they are teaching and how that impacts student learning,” she said. “I think that is very difficult to measure, but I think we all know that it is critical to really changing a student for life.”
Added Voelz, “It helps them love a subject and ultimately choose their careers.”
Eleven teachers attended the three grant-writing workshops hosted by BCPEF. Applicants could either enter a team grant and receive up to $10,000 or an individual grant and receive up to $5,000. The grant committee awarded seven proposals:
- E.L. Ross Elementary science and social studies teacher Tonya Mullinax will travel to Alaska. She plans on studying the Native American culture in addition to trade, supply, demand, the ecosystems and the “interaction and interdependence” among living things.
- Walker Valley High School history and social studies teacher Christian Mann will begin his trip in Somme, France, and end in Ypres, Belgium, as he witnesses the 100th year anniversary of Word War I.
- Cleveland City Schools teacher of homebound students Victoria Pritchard plans to go to Europe to examine the Holocaust “through the eyes” of survivor Maude Dahme. Her travels will take her through Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and Holland.
- Cleveland High School science, anatomy, physiology and medical engineering teacher Erin Hattabaugh will travel to the United Kingdom to study its “lengthy history of successful social medicine.”
- Walker Valley High School English, journalism and language arts teachers Amanda Picchiottino and Sarah Garrett will travel to Boston to visit homes, museums, cemeteries and other sites related to significant authors like Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
- Walker Valley High School history and social studies teachers Rachel Hicks and Elizabeth Pickens will travel to Greece to study how the culture “affected” the politics of Plato and Aristotle.
- Walker Valley High School biology, geography and economics teachers Lori E. Tipton and Kerri D. Shrestha will explore the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest by foot and bike to observe “the physical and biological processes, as well as the cultural characteristics, that created and continue to change this region of the world.” The two will create a photo, video and data journal to further enhance their students’ education.
Voelz said while private money is no replacement for public funding from local governments, it does provide unique opportunities for teachers.
“If we can do this every year for a number of years, we are building up a [collection] of teachers who have amazing experiences related specifically to what they are teaching,” she said. “That can’t help but impact our community.”