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Past Winners

by admin on February 18, 2009


Online summer fellowship application for innovative teachers

Karen Daniels, of the Fillmore Arts Center in Washington, DC, has won the Summer Fellowship for an interdisciplinary dance project. Her school–which hosts area schools as an arts teaching center–will give Washington students a chance to learn about Ghana: dance, music, art, social studies and physical education.

Peter Thomas, of the Hawken School, Lyndhurst, Ohio is a recent Summer Fellowship for Innovative Teachers winner for a project on watersheds. Middle school students will not only get outdoors and learn what a watershed is, but also combine math, physics, chemistry and history as they work in a particular watershed.

Suzanne Bordeau, of the BlueSky Online Charter School, St Paul, Minnesota, won a Fellowship for her project to create an online Spanish course for widely scattered students. This is a growing technology, and vital to many student populations. Her special innovation is to incorporate web-cam, video, songs and exercise links to recreate many different types of classroom activity.

Maria Sheila de Torres was a winner through her efforts to generate workbook and classroom worksheet activities for developmentally disabled students. This type of material is hard to find. Her school is the Ludlow Taylor Elementary School in Washington, DC. The “free adaptive” materials were also posted online as a download for other teachers.

Ruth Breindel, of the Moses Brown School, Providence, RI, won for a book project on teaching methodology for Latin. Her book (published by the American Classical League) will follow up on other publications in which she sets clear and unusually concrete guidelines for exercises and drills. Much of this proposal has been “test-driven” with students who have somewhat unusual learning styles (cognitive styles). The latter is a feature of Ms. Breindel”s new work. Some of the exercises are completely original. In addition, this thrust complements an inherent value of Latin study; it has been known for some time that students with reading difficulties, including dyslexia, either benefit generally from studying Latin or have an easier time with it than with modern languages.

Virginia Powell, of the Bala House Montessori School, Bala Cynwyd, PA, has won a Fellowship for her innovative pre-school curriculum. She has designed, and run, a multi-year geology curriculum. The activities are “hands on,” with samples to observe, handle and describe. The curriculum begins the process of conceiving general ideas about our planet from physical observations. Students gain some idea of physical events in the history of the Earth. Ms. Powell had a professional geologist help with the program design.

Erica Udoff, of the Salem School, Salem, CT, teaches art through architecture. Her winning innovation is to have students teach other students about architecture and history-including the styles of buildings in Salem. They also combine various skills and disciplines in creating three-dimensional models of buildings to help teach each other. Math skills are sharpened, as students manipulate both physical studio tools and computer programs to produce their buildings.

Susan Smith, of Edison Elementary School, in Lawton OK, has created a vibrant two
hour after-school writing club. She has experimented with different models for this activity, and peers say that students’ writing has greatly improved. Beyond the volunteered time, Ms. Smith has made the activity appealing by scheduling “Coffee Shop” time in which students read from their work. She has accomplished the all-important parent involvement, by inviting parents to come to the club and write alongside their children.

Wayne Borden, Whitin Middle School, Uxbridge, MA

Wayne Borden’s winning project was a set of templates (introductory statements, transitional modes, summarizing phrases, concluding statements, for example) to help middle-schoolers become better writers. This practice deals with students’ feelings of being “blocked” when writing, and of hopelessness when faced with a large set of ideas which need structure in writing.

The templates are high quality physical and visual tools which help students visualize and conceptualize the footsteps toward logical structure in writing. While the idea was not new with Mr. Borden, he was at the beginning of this movement a few years ago, and has spread his work to other classrooms and even to other schools.

A major publisher has contacted this winner about issuing the templates as a book.

Robin Havens, Joanne da Luz, Life Learning Academy, San Francisco, CA 94130

This project was called “Bike Math.” Combining efforts of teachers in two class settings – mathematics class and the bike recreation and repair setting – the project leads students to a better understanding of some key high school math topics: distance and velocity calculations, circumference, and ratios.

Students apply the math behind these physical ideas to the physical world of the bicycle. They work on the bikes – apply measurements, change gears, and so on – and then take them out for a ride.

Both the in-school work, and the physical sensation of the changes they have made help to teach the math concepts intuitively.

Daniel Joe Ableman, Missouri Military Academy, Mexico, Missouri 65265

This project has become a focus of the Math Department at Missouri Military Academy over the last few years. The idea is to teach math by way of laboratory experiments. Mr. Ableman has students experiment with electrical conductivity (and calculations), create parabolas, and measure aspects of nut and bolt threading as a way of learning complex math functions.

A key is the interdisciplinary work in math and physics. In more and more schools we are finding new benefits in this kind of “cross-boundaries” academic work. In this case, students learn by gaining an intuitve and physical sense of some of the math.

Students also gain from a group work component, and they must complete a rigorous prose writing summary of the experiments.

Jean Mason, Dr Martin Luther King Jr School, Camp St, Providence, RI

Ms Mason’s project was a classroom exploration of the Amazon rain forest, bringing together several disciplines. Her school is primary, and she teaches science to all the students who come through. She decided to make the rain forest a focus of much of the science teaching. More innovatively, she enlisted the support of music, arts, math and social studies teachers so that the program is unusually inter-disciplinary.

In the years since her award, Ms Mason has raised money in other ways to bring one lucky student to the rain forest. She has repeated her first visit to a learning center for teachers in the rain forest. She has truly gone beyond the scope of our original award by establishing a sister-school relationship with a school in the rain forest, and by having her students help to provide school supplies for that school.

Cecilia Villabona Falmagne, Wa Irving HS, 40 Irving Place, NY, NY

Ms Villabona Falmagne’s project was to change her math syllabus to more fully match a variety of learning styles in her classroom. She relied on many of Howard Gardner’s insights in his discussion of the “seven kinds of intelligence.”

She has been a leader in her school in having students approach each math problem from a number of directions, using a variety of learning techniques.

The variety itself is a key to this approach, but individual methods also stand out as innovative: group discussion in problem solving; math journals to reflect the thought process behind a problem.

In 1998 Ms Villabona Falmagne began looking into administrative work, and also met – at our invitation – in a colloquium with award-winning math teachers from Rhode Island.

Elena Kalacheva, The Hudson School, 506 Park Ave, Hoboken, NJ

Ms Kalacheva is a teacher of Russian and German in an independent school.

She struggled with the difficulty of teaching sound-symbol association, and the alphabet, in her Russian classes. This gave rise to an innovative booklet, constantly expanding, which supplements textbooks while improving these skills. Her materials use puns, sound similarities, and drawings illustrating these to more fully engage the student’s mind in the tasks of both hearing new sounds and memorizing sound and spelling associations. She has amplified these devices by adding songs and jingles, which she plays on guitar.

Ms Kalacheva has been active in publishing her approach. Her next challenge is to carry this work over into her German classes.

Judith Crawford, The Dawson-Verdon School, Dawson, Nebraska

Ms. Crawford has developed new teaching materials for her kindergarten class. The specific innovation is that the students themselves produce these materials, which serve as texts. The textbooks (for example, the “Sneech Book,” for math) are thus developed over time as the students reach a full understanding of each concept and the context into which it fits. Students have a sense of pride and attachment to the materials from which they learn.

The books, when finished, have plastic covers and spines. They are durable, and can be manipulated to serve as self-quizzing tools. A special component of Ms. Crawford’s project has been the involvement of parents; it is particularly easy for parents to see and appreciate the books when they are taken home, and to use them to quiz their children.

Steven Krous, Cranston High School West, Cranston, RI

Mr. Krous has developed a project centered on growing eel grass for possible transplantation into the Narragansett Bay, in Rhode Island. Students will have an unusually high interest and sense of accomplishment, because of the Bay’s importance in Rhode Island and its known ecological fragility. The outstanding innovation in this project, however, is the on-going laboratory project which will determine the best strains of eel grass over a year’s time. Students will develop their sense of scientific method and their laboratory skills by measuring such variables as oxygen and water-flow, and by keeping track of different types of eel grass.

An impression of relevance and real-world context will make the project live, as students have to determine which grass will succeed in the Bay’s ecosystem.

A special innovation will be the research and fact-finding that students do by e-mailing professors of biology at the University of Rhode Island.