Teacher Travels Supported by Fund for Teachers Grants
Portrait of Lt. Col. E.E. Lundak found in a British war museum.

Teaching is not an easy job, and one of the perks is having the summer off with the rest of the students — if you have somewhere to go. Since 1988, with the inception of Fund for Teachers, a national donor-supported organization, teachers nationwide have been using grant money to travel abroad.

Of course, this is not just a vacation. For the summer of 2015, 487 teachers representing 318 schools received Fund for Teachers grants. These teachers will embark on summer odysseys spanning six continents, with the largest percentage remaining in North America. Their areas of study range from a digital literacy workshop at the University of Rhode Island to conducting field research in the Galapagos Islands and Amazon rainforest, all in order to become better sources of knowledge in the classroom.

“Teachers have the power to transform the world through their direct, daily contact with our future generations,” explains Karen Kovach Webb, the Executive Director of Fund for Teachers. “We offer educators the opportunity to pursue areas of personal and professional interests and bring their experiences and energy back to the classroom.”

Fund for Teachers is one of the largest funders of teacher learning in the country, investing $24 million in more than 6,500 teachers since 2001. Although there are other programs similar to it, Fund for Teachers is unique because it allows educators to design their own experience. Thus, the teacher has control over how the experiences will impact his or her life, profession, community and students.

In the summer of 2013, for example, Dan Lundak set out to retrace his grandfather’s D-Day experience so that this American History teacher could help eighth graders at Chicago’s Sauganash Elementary School personally connect with World War II. To his surprise, while touring the small war museum in Bury St. Edmonds, England, Lundak discovered a portrait of his grandfather (see above), a B-17 pilot at the time, hanging on the museum’s walls. Of his experience, Lundak notes,”Retracing my grandfather’s service during the D-Day invasion gave me personal insight into what each person has to ask themselves in a time a crisis; the experience also gives my students a personal story they can relate to when facing similar decisions about personal sacrifice.” He added, “Understanding history through the close examination of my grandfather’s service -– rather than a textbook -– interjects real-life perspective into the curriculum and helps students arrive at their own conclusions.” Other previous grant recipients are sharing stories about their fellowships at fundforteachers.tumblr.com.

Applying for a Fund for Teachers Grant

Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue relevant opportunities that make the greatest impact on their practice, their students and school communities. These are the criteria on which fund applications are judged. Grants are available for individuals in the amount of $5,000 and for teams, grants of up to $10,000 are also offered.

In the application process, the teacher is required to propose a trip and must also document how the travel fellowship will make him or her a better teacher. Additionally, applicants must be clear in how the journey will enhance his or her curriculum in the upcoming semesters.

Available online, Fund for Teachers accepts applications between October and January. All proposals will then be evaluated by a selection committee that is comprised of past fellows, local educators, donors and community members. Winners are notified by April in order to plan their summer trips.

Teachers interested in applying for a fellowship grants must, of course, meet the criteria. All eligible applicants must work with students in grades Pre-K through 12 and must have at least three years of classroom experience. See Fund for Teachers for more information about the application process and eligibility, the 2015 grant winners, student outcomes, and information on the 2016 competition.

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