Teachers are Learners: Customized Education Grants to Boost Performance in the Classroom

We’ve all had a teacher who inspired us, leaving an indelible impression that steered our future course of learning. For me, it was Mr. Glavin. He was a demanding taskmaster who would rap on the table with his right hand, point in your direction, call out your last name and then expect you to fire off the conjugation for the imperfect tense of “sum” without missing a beat. Despite being put on the spot on a daily basis, I grew to love Latin, and went on to major in Classical Studies in college. Great teachers do that: they unleash a new passion in eager students. That’s why it’s critical to keep them engaged and inspired and on a quest for new experiences, which is precisely the mission of the Fund for Teachers.

I had the privilege of learning about the Fund for Teachers for my most recent project, which showcases the unique trips teachers in Connecticut experienced courtesy of FFT grants. From tracking Syrian refugees through Europe to meeting survivors of the Rwandan Genocide to learning how to create A Cappella arrangements for an elementary school chorus, the teachers customized their own educational journeys to broaden the horizons of their students. Marina Outwater, a middle school teacher who spent six weeks exploring the water crisis in India describes her fellowship as “exactly the sort of thing that gives someone who’s been 20 years in the classroom new energy.”

Marina used her life-changing experience over the summer to teach her 6th graders about the lack of clean drinking water in many countries. Her compelling photos of families bathing in the Ganges and young children fetching buckets of water drove home the reality of the water crisis in a way textbooks simply could not. The students also participated in Marina’s “Water Bucket Challenge,” lugging a five gallon bucket of water around the school for 45 minutes to see what kids in India dealt with on a daily basis. Let’s just say it was a huge wake up call for kids used to turning on the tap. You can watch the story of her trip here.

In the 13 years since Fund for Teachers started its mission, it has sent more than 6,300 teachers on unique journeys to 140 countries. And these are not tours mapped out by travel agents: they are expeditions researched and plotted by the teachers themselves. No two trips are alike. You can watch my full story on the trips a handful of Connecticut fellows took last summer here.

Simply put, energized teachers in the classroom inspire the thinkers and artists of tomorrow. Fellowships are available for teachers all across the country. Follow this link to learn how to apply. The deadline is January 31st.

Innovation in Connecticut

Connecticut has a long tradition of innovation: The sewing machine, the vacuum cleaner, and the color television were all invented in this state. But innovation isn’t necessarily defined as a major breakthrough; it can manifest as a new twist on a conventional product or device. Imagine the world saddled with the first version of the… Continue Reading

New Documentary for CPTV on Innovative and Environmentally-conscious Companies: “Made in CT”

I’m working on a new documentary for CPTV called “Made in CT” that features innovative manufacturing companies in the state. Everybody knows we have Pratt & Whitney, which has spawned dozens of supply chain manufacturers in the aerospace industry. But very few people had any idea Connecticut is also home to some innovative companies in… Continue Reading

“Connecticut’s Gun Fight” Nominated for an Emmy

The documentary “Connecticut’s Gun Fight” that I produced with the talented team from Connecticut Public Television has been nominated for an Emmy.  The half-hour long program explores the issue of gun rights as Connecticut legislators considered sweeping new legislation in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Sandy Hook.  The show is nominated in the… Continue Reading

On Behalf of Bees

On Behalf of Bees

I remember growing up, hearing about “The Birds and the Bees” in hushed, embarrassed tones.  I confess: I actually thought at some point, my parents were going to offer some new and startling wisdom about birds and bees that was critical to my well-being.  Well, that never happened.  So, this Earth Day,  in honor of… Continue Reading

Christina DeFranco Logo

Documentary Producer/Environmental Journalist