17 NPS Teachers Will Engage The World For Their Students

17 NPS Teachers Will Engage The World For Their Students
Posted on 04/05/2017
Fund for Teachers


Fund for Teachers Announces Professional Learning Grants

Today, the partnership of the Dalio Foundation, Norwalk Public Schools, and Fund for Teachers (FFT) celebrates 17 Norwalk teachers receiving professional learning grants. “These highly motivated educators have been granted an extraordinary opportunity to design their own professional growth,” said Dr. Steven Adamowski, Superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools.  “Previous Norwalk fellows have returned to the classroom energized by their travels and ready to share what they learned, and I’m confident that our 2017 FFT Fellows will have the same experience. We’re very grateful to Fund for Teachers and the Dalio Foundation for their ongoing support of our teachers and schools.” 

Norwalk’s teachers are part of a larger cohort of 210 Connecticut teachers taking part in this year’s fellowship program. As FFT Fellows, these passionate and dedicated teachers will spend part of their summer vacations traveling around the world to pursue personally-designed learning experiences in various fields and disciplines. Teachers will document their remarkable journeys, and when they return, they will apply what they learned to enhance student experiences in their classrooms. In total, 145 teacher-created professional learning projects are being awarded grant funding, enabling teachers working in 123 schools in 60 public school districts to embark on summer learning odysseys in 48 countries for the benefit of thousands of students.

“The Dalio Foundation and Fund for Teachers supports teachers who identify needs and opportunities in their school communities, seek out solutions, and strive for excellent teaching and learning by demonstrating awareness, inquiry, empathy, and resilience. We are proud to add these newly-selected Connecticut FFT Fellows to our cohort of teacher experts and leaders,” said Karen Webb, FFT Executive Director.

This year’s FFT application process showcased an inspiring theme of teachers helping other teachers to pursue their professional goals and passions. Dozens of 2016 FFT Fellows were instrumental in recruiting and increasing the number of Connecticut teachers who applied for FFT fellowships in 2017, and many of the planned learning projects rely on teacher-to-teacher sharing across cultures. FFT Fellows will explore topics including: education leadership, history, kinesiology, language through cultural immersion, literature, math, science, social justice, special education, technology, and the visual and performing arts. 

Here are the teacher-created professional learning projects that will enrich teacher and student experiences throughout Norwalk:

  • Elizabeth Amaral of Nathan Hale Middle School and Donna Reeves of West Rocks Middle School will participate in a Spanish language immersion program in Puerto Rico to learn more about a culture and history native to most English Language Learners at Nathan Hale and West Rocks.

  • Joseph Giandurco of Ponus Ridge Middle School will attend the Lego Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University to learn about new cooperative learning opportunities using project-based applications to help students increase their critical and creative thinking skills.

  • Maja Hodzic of Norwalk High School will document, through digital storytelling, a personal refugee experience as a teenage girl during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. Her documentary style work will be used to increase student empathy and cultural awareness of the plight of immigrants.

  • Deborah Kopple of Norwalk High School will participate in a ceremonial dance retreat in Kauai, Hawaii focusing on self-exploration and training in the mindfulness practices of Tibetan Buddhism, to incorporate self-awareness and social emotional learning techniques into a teen wellness program, which will include meditative movement and mindfulness practices for youth.

  • Jeanne Kahn of Rowayton Elementary School will immerse herself in studying, learning, and practicing Spanish in Spain to support her school's ESL students.

  • Renee Lukaniec of Fox Run Elementary School will explore the history, culture, and customs of the Huron-Wendat Nation residing on the Wendake Reservation in Quebec, Canada; she will expand her knowledge of the historically-influential indigenous people and use her new insights to create a unit that promotes awareness and appreciation of native cultures.

  • Geneva Mayne of Fox Run Elementary School will attend the Summer Vocology Institute at the National Center for Voice and Speech in Salt Lake City to learn principles of voice assessment and intervention.

  • Samuel McVey of Nathan Hale Middle School will take part in a series of visits to schools and cultural/historical sites in Colombia to enhance Spanish literacy skills for her classes with native Spanish-speaking students and students studying English as a second language.

  • Melissa O’Donnell of Brien McMahon High School will research the correlation between cultural capital and literacy rates in Central America by exploring the region’s educational systems and non-profit organizations. Her work will help identify challenges facing incoming students from Central American countries.

  • Melissa Petropoulos of Rowayton Elemtary School and James Petropoulos, of West Rocks Middle School will tour sites associated with slavery during America's Colonial period to gain insight into the unique conditions, beliefs, cultural experiences, and perspectives of enslaved Africans in the Southern, Mid-Atlantic, and New England colonies. 

  • Kaitlyn Prescott of Brien McMahon High School will embark on a literary journey around Ireland to discover how time, place, and culture impact the history of storytelling to better engage students in literature.

  • Merle Rumble of Fox Run Elementary School will tour Civil Rights sites and museums across the South to deepen her personal understanding of a history and culture often marginalized in today’s classrooms, and inspire students to value the struggle, perseverance, and achievements of African Americans.

  • Samantha Verboven of Wolfpit Elementary School will engage with Alaska's Native American population and observe their culture of storytelling to create an afterschool writing club based on reader's theater to improve oral storytelling techniques and the narrative writing process.  

  • Demetria Walters, of Columbus Magnet Elementary School will attend the 24th annual Intensive Spanish Summer Institute at Lake Tahoe Community College to learn more about Hispanic/Latino culture, arts, cultural expressions and oral traditions to enhance student learning and increase cultural awareness.

  • Whitney LokDeFino of Center for Global Studies will study the history of cultural interactions between Italy and China through an independent odyssey through Italian cities closely identified with Sino-Italian history, and then participate in the Creativity Workshop in New York City to learn new strategies for enhancing student learning.

Fund for Teachers continues to have an enormous impact on the Norwalk Public Schools community, as the cohort of fellows and ambassadors continues to grow in numbers. Norwalk teachers dream big as they plan their professional learning experience to positively impact their students, schools, lessons, colleagues, and communities,” said Mary Yordon, President of the Norwalk Federation of Teachers.  We are delighted and grateful to have teachers continue to participate in this amazing opportunity.” 

For the third year in a row, the Dalio Foundation has supported FFT and Norwalk Public Schools to provide professional learning grants for teachers. “I am inspired by the teachers’ commitment to instill in their students the thrill of learning. To partner with Norwalk Public Schools and Fund for Teachers to help bring this about brings me great joy,” said Barbara Dalio of the Dalio Foundation.


About Fund for Teachers

FFT annually awards grants to Pre-K through 12 teachers to pursue self-designed summer fellowships for professional learning.  Connecticut’s FFT Fellows were chosen by local selection committees comprised of teachers, administrators, union leaders, and community stakeholders.  Through the rigorous selection process, every fellowship application was read three times and carefully reviewed against FFT’s objective rubric.

Since 2001, FFT has awarded more than $27 million in grants, empowering nearly 7,500 teachers to explore their passions, deepen their scholarship, and enhance their craft.  FFT Fellows have studied in 145 countries on all 7 continents. 

FFT Fellows become powerful change agents in their schools and communities.  They inspire and challenge their students to apply their learning to real-world issues, embrace perseverance, take ownership of their learning, and build empathy of others.  For more information, visit: