Teachers get grants to expand horizons

Funding to allow educators to spend summer traveling

A middle school science teacher will climb down into the mouth of a volcano to explore the land.

An elementary school teacher will study canyons in Arizona and Hawaii. And a high school principal will follow the life and footsteps of the namesake of his school.

Three local teachers received Teacher Creativity Fellowships from the Lilly Endowment that will allow them to spend their summer traveling.

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Susan Porter of Center Grove Middle School Central, James Tudor of East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh and Charles E. Weisenbach, principal of Roncalli High School, each received $12,000 to pay for their trips. Each of the educators hope that what they learn on their trips will help students next school year, they said.

One hundred teachers received the grant statewide. The money is meant to help renew teacher’s commitment to the field, according to a news release from the endowment. All of the local educators picked are creating trips from lifelong passions and hoping to revamp curriculum and find ways to allow their students to experience some of what they learned on their trips.

Weisenbach took a similar trip about eight years ago where he followed Angelo Roncalli’s childhood and early adulthood, traveling to where the school’s namesake had formative experiences. Now, he is traveling to Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Holy Land, in order to speak to people who knew the man who would become pope and to take a look at how he lived.

“So much of the first trip, I was able to bring back so much of what he was,” Weisenbach said.

Roncalli was respected and revered in Bulgaria and Turkey, with street names, statues and buildings being named after the saint. Roncalli, who was later known as Pope John XXIII, served as leader of the Catholic Church from 1958 until his death in 1963.

For Weisenbach, it is important for him to understand the spirit of Roncalli so he can come back and tell the students who their namesake was, he said.

Tudor will be keeping a blog during his trip to the Grand Canyon and the Waimea Canyon in Hawaii and asking his students to follow along so they can get a look at the experience too, he said.

“Many of the kids here don’t get the opportunity to travel,” Tudor said.

The third-grade teacher has always loved geology, and students are constantly bringing him rocks to identify. After his trip hiking and studying rocks, he hopes to revamp his science curriculum to include a rock unit where kids will have to identify rocks.

And he is working with professors at universities in Hawaii and Utah to study the canyons and the geology that goes along with them, he said.

What he learns will then be compiled and put on a permanent exhibit at a new science museum at Hanover College.

“It is just rekindling a love of geology,” he said.

Porter is teaching as a second career, after spending years working in chemical engineering. As an eighth-grade science teacher, she teaches earth science too and wanted a way to bring some personal experience to those lessons.

Her grant is being used to explore tectonic plate boundaries, including the San Andreas Fault in California, the Volcanic Legacy National Scenic Byway through California and Oregon, Mount St. Helens and Mount Ranier in Washington and the North American and Eurasian Plates in Iceland.

At one point, she will be able to touch two tectonic plates at one time. And she will be able to go into a mouth of a volcano to see how it works.

Tectonic plates and the study of volcanoes and earthquakes are a large topic of study in her science classes. Her experiences will allow her to talk more definitively and add details to her subjects, she said.

“It is going to blow them away to think that I am going to do this,” Porter said.

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Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mkritsch@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2770.