Fund for Teachers is a national nonprofit that awards grants for self-designed fellowships to America's most innovative preK-12 teachers. This is a podcast to elevate these public/private/charter school educators as inspiring architects of their careers, classrooms and school communities.
Partnering with Teachers to Learn
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, more than 900,000 people quit jobs in state and local education last year, while private schools lost an additional 600,000 people. So what would make an overworked, underpaid teacher want to increase their workload and add to their schedules a monthly, two-hour meeting after school?
The answer? An Innovation Circles Grant from Fund for Teachers.
Last year, Fund for Teachers offered a new opportunity specifically for teachers who already received a Fellowship grant. With up to $1,000 (as opposed to $5 -$10,000 for their original grant), Fellows were encouraged to think more theoretically about challenges witnessed in their classrooms and to pursue related experiential learning during the summer. The biggest differentiator, however, was the opportunity to process that learning with other Fellows throughout the fall. Each teacher brought to monthly virtual meetings their independent summer research loosely organized around the topics of social justice, art & design, accessibility, and social emotional learning. And, together, they workshopped how to leverage that research in the classroom. The program was so well received that we committed to a second year of Innovation Circle Grants, and the online application opened February 10th.
Today, we’re learning from Marci Addy, a high school literature teacher in Beaverton, OR, and member of our first Innovation Circles Grant cohort. She participated in our Social Emotional Learning Innovation Circle, using a $1,000 grant to attend online workshops and develop skills in project-based learning. Then she walked students through the PBL process, helping them demonstrate authentic learning while maturing as learners and citizens. I reached out to learn more about this experience and why she believes Fellows owe it to themselves to also apply.
Taking a MasterClass in Writing an FFT Proposal
Forbes, CNN, Fast Company, The New York Post and even Town & Country claim that MasterClass is one of this year’s top holiday gifts. The streaming platform offers lessons from the best in their fields, delivering – according to its website -- a world class online learning experience. We decided to follow suit and offer a Fund for Teachers MasterClass on crafting a successful grant proposal. Our expert: Four-time Fellow Chris Dolgos.
Today, we’re learning from Chris Dolgos, a sixth grade at Genesee Community Charter School in Rochester, NY. In addition to receiving Fund for Teachers grants in 2003, 2006, 2015 and 2020 (which he deferred until this summer), Chris also regularly reviews grant proposals as part of our Selection Committees and also is an inaugural member of our Educator Advisory Council. History and geography are two passions he brings to life in his classroom, through field work, guest experts and product-driven curriculum. Chris has contributed to EL Education’s publications and Common Core curricular efforts and is a NY Educator Voice Fellow. He is also the recipient of EL Education’s Klingenstein Award, nominated by peers and presented to one educator with the national network who stands out for their remarkable service to their school community, as well as their persistence in passionately developing students with character who excel academically and contribute to making the world a better place.
If you’re looking for tips on submitting the most compelling Fund for Teachers proposal possible, keep listening…
Learning Gratitude from Refugee Students & Teachers
Today’s podcast airs on Black Friday, when millions of shoppers flock to malls to begin and finish holiday shopping. This scene stands in stark contrast to those witnessed by fifth-grade teacher Janelle Rei this summer. Between meeting with Sudanese refugee students and teachers and observing families living and working in cities built of garbage, Janelle witnessed joy and gratitude for the little things, including school supplies she delivered from her own students at Great Neck Elementary School in Waterford, CT.
Janelle is a Fund for Teachers Fellow who used her grant to experience in Egypt the locations in which two books in the fifth-grade curriculum are set to support student learning and to make global connections through The Global Read Along program. Janelle holds an undergraduate degree in education, as well as a master’s degree in special education from Bridgewater State University, and she recently completed a second master’s degree in educational technology from Eastern Connecticut State University. Her first motivation to teach, however, came from her mother, who continues to teach elementary students in nearby Rhode Island. Our conversation covered her motivation for guiding students to be empathic global citizens, how her fellowship is facilitating that, and her advice for our future FFT Fellows working on their proposals.
Applying SEL Strategies For Teachers
“The teachers are not alright.” News accounts and social media pages attest to the fatigue – both mental and physical – America’s teachers are experiencing this fall as they continue to adjust to the new normal after the past year of pandemic classrooms. It seems our teachers could use some of the social emotional learning strategies they are sharing with students trying to cope. Hyam Elsaharty knows a lot about that. She used her FFT grant to research in Malaysia how collectivist communities apply SEL skills in homes and schools, then applied her findings at Chicago’s Mather High School, where one-third of students were refugees, immigrants and/or English Language Learners. Now, she’s sharing her expertise with Seattle Public Schools as its Consulting SEL Teacher for the entire district.
Today, we’re learning from Hayam Elsaharty, a Fund for Teachers Fellow who also serves on our Educator Advisory Council. Hyam holds an undergraduate degree in criminal justice from the University of Indiana, a master’s degree in Resource Development from Northeastern Illinois University, a second master’s degree in Education from Quincy University and a certificate in English as a Second Language. With her 2017 Fund for Teachers grant, she and a colleague investigated programs in Malaysia supporting Rohingyan refugees who fled genocide in Myanmar. With new knowledge and insights, Hyam and her teammate expanded the advisory curriculum by creating a series of meaningful units that meet the specific social and emotional needs of refugee and immigrant students. The following year, buoyed by her fellowship experience, she applied for and was awarded a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms grant to research Social Emotional Learning in Peru.
After being named Chicago Public Schools’ first Social Emotional Learning Teacher of the Year, she moved to Seattle to help direct a district wide SEL focus on adult education, and supporting educators to develop knowledge, confidence, and agency in teaching students SEL skills. Our conversation began talking about her fellowship and how it changed her life personally and professionally, then migrated to the topic of how teachers can use social emotional learning for themselves.
Listening to the Needs of Students who are Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Marlee Matlin, the only Deaf performer to have won an Academy Award, said
“Every one of us is different in some way, but for those of us who are more different, we have to put more effort into convincing the less different that we can do the same thing they can, just differently.”
Theatre teacher Amy Patel is committed to figuring out how to teach differently so her deaf and hard of hearing students make their marks at James Clemens High School in Madison, AL. Amy initially received a Fund for Teachers grant in 2017 to explore the inner workings of professional theatre in New York City and better prepare students for possible careers and professional applications of theatre. When two new students who were Deaf subsequently enrolled in joined her theatre department, Amy realized she had a lot more to learn about empowering ALL students for the stage with equity and accessibility. When her own son lost his hearing, that realization turned into action.
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Through Art
September the 15th begins Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. The Fund for Teachers fellowship of Chicago art teachers Carolina Ibarra and Claire Reynes celebrated the same thing last summer.
In an effort to integrate their elementary students’ culture as a source of inspiration in the art room, these teachers used a Fund for Teachers’ team grant to research the history of traditional Mexican crafts that utilize sustainable art making practices with eco-friendly art materials. Carolina and Claire completed a homestay with contemporary artists in Michoacan and then experienced the centuries-old practice of weaving in Oaxaca. In addition to making art and new friends, they also made – in their words – magical moments that will now translate to their students – the majority of whom are Hispanic.
If you are any type of educator looking for inspiration or just in need of some good news in the world, look no further! Listen to these amazing interviews with teachers that will certainly brighten your day and bring new knowledge into your heart and mind!
The best teachers around!
Fund For Teachers if unique among organizations that spport teacher learning. They respect teachers as professionals who know best what will help them grow as educators. Too often teachers are told what professional development they need. They are ordered to attend lecture style trainings designed and led by consultants and academics who have only limited and long ago classroom experience, if they were ever teacher at all.
These are the stories of teachers who are constanly striving to become better. The best teachers are those whose love for their subject and belief in what their students can accomplish guide every decision. Thank you Fund For Teachers for showing what it means to treat teachers as the higly skilled and thoughful professionals they are.