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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.

Christina DeFranco Logo

Documentary Producer/Environmental Journalist