Friday, December 17, 2010

Foundation Rewards Good Teachers with Funds, Travel, and Education

Listen to the full audio here.

Heather Leise at The R.E.B. Awards Ceremony
(Photo courtesy of Heather Leise)

Jeff Hall posed with Student Artwork
(Photo By: Sarah Freiseis)

Heather Reid posed with Science Posters
(Photo By: Sarah Freiseis)

Lindsay Porzio and Class
(Photo By: Sarah Freiseis)

Barry Gabay in the Classroom
(Photo Courtesy of Barry Gabay)

Last month, The 2010 R.E.B. Award Winners were announced at a ceremony at the Library of Virginia. 148 applications were received and eighteen winners and thirteen finalists were selected from student, parent, and colleague nominations.

The program, organized by The Community Foundation, and funded by The R.E.B. Foundation, awarded a total of $169,750 this year. The R.E.B. Foundation, headed by Rudolph and Esther Bunzl, has donated about $100,000 each year for teaching excellence since 1988.

The finalists prepared grants that proposed professional growth with unique itineraries to include working toward an advanced degree and world travel. Thirty-one teachers from the Metro-Richmond area were recognized and rewarded for their personal teaching excellence and commitment to public education.

Heather Leise, a 12th Grade Advanced Government and International Baccalaureate Program History of The Americas teacher at Atlee High School in Hanover County said she was nominated by former students. She said she filled out an in depth questionnaire asking about her teaching style, and why she became a teacher.

“Once you find out you’re a finalist, then your prepare your grant, you do your grant for why you want to do it, where you want to go, how much it will cost, all the facts and figures,” she said. “Then they interview you, and then you find out in November, so it’s about a ten month process.”

She said the grant will allow her to enhance the classroom experience beyond just teaching the written documentation of history. She plans on bringing back learning aides in the form of artifacts from Latin American Countries.

“I want to compare two Latin American countries, one with a strong European influence which is Argentina, to a country that has still an indigenous influence which is Peru,” she said. “And to see the different make-up, the food, the people, the governmental systems, and how it’s influenced by either the European side, or the indigenous side.”

Jeff Hall, an Art Teacher, and the Fine Arts Department Chair at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond said he created a proposal to coincide with the school’s international language focus.

He said, “The R.E.B. recognition allows me to provide resources that teachers can use in their classes, whether they are teaching a foreign language or history, art is that great unifier.”

He said by visiting several European countries he hopes to compare the many facets of past versus present art and explore universal global culture in the contemporary arts.

“Across all those countries there is just tremendous diversity, of course classical and traditional art, as well as a very vibrant art scene,” he said.

Hall said he will be documenting his trip electronically via his website as it happens so the kids, and others, may follow his travels. He said he hopes to host workshops for teachers at Maggie Walker and surrounding counties when he comes back.

Heather Reid, a 5th Grade teacher at Echo Lake Elementary School in Henrico County helps create the science curriculum for the school, as well as the county as a Science CCT. She said it is important to remember creating relationships with students will inspire them to explore the subject matter.

“It will be a fun and productive learning environment, and you can have the interest, and the passion, and the experiences, to make the learning more meaningful to them,” she said. “Then they remember it better, and they are more curious about it, and they are more likely to go home and talk to their parents about it over the dinner table.”

Reid will travel to Hawaii and visually document her findings as an advanced open water certified diver. She said it is particularly exciting to see students take an interest in what is going on in school and out in the real world.

Lindsay Porzio, a 5th Grade Teacher at Bon Air Elementary School in Chesterfield County is planning to explore the coast of southern Italy by sailboat as a part of the recertification process for National Board.

“I want to bring back to them a chance to see the world outside of Bon Air and to be able to inspire them to someday want to go and see places that we learn about and study about, just opening up the world to them,” she said. “In today’s world we have to make sure that we teach with a global perspective and not just our SOL’s and standards, that we have to make sure the kids understand they have an impact on the whole world.”

Barry Gabay teaches IB Program English and Philosophy, as well as 9th Grade English to regular enrollment. He said many of his students speak non-standard English, Ebonics, and it’s the most prominent non-standard dialect of English.

“We have to provide equality of opportunity, it does not mean that you drag every kid across the finish line, you can’t, but you have to give equality of opportunity, every kid deserves a chance. Period,” he said. “And some kids need more preparation for the chance, and then they run the race.”

Gabay, a teacher from Thomas Jefferson High School of Richmond Public Schools, plans on traveling to India. He said he will visit poor and middle class neighborhoods to see secondary English instruction and then travel to Bangalore, the hub of the Call Center Industry in India to see how English language is used and applied there.

“So that maybe I can help our kids get employed, that’s my bottom line,” he said. “Seeing what India is doing with English language instruction, and then use in the workplace when language is essential rather than some other skill, where it’s strictly verbal communication, and see if there is a way to inculcate that into North American urban kids”

The R.E.B. Award recipients are able to embark on a journey of great professional and personal importance with the intent of enriching the community.

-Sarah Freiseis

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