MERIDEN — Sixteen Meriden teachers will travel this summer and use their experiences in the classroom after receiving thousands of dollars in grants from the Fund for Teachers.
Projects include a trip to Paris and Wales to study restorative justice, an Australian expedition to explore wildlife and a Puerto Rican excursion to experience authentic native cuisine.
“We’re thrilled that our teachers are taking advantage of this great opportunity,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Benigni said. “It’s exciting for us to know our teachers want to take time out of their summer schedule for professional growth and learning.”
Fund for Teachers and the Dalio Foundation award fellowships to teachers through an application process. Teachers document the trips and relay their experiences to students as a way to enhance the curriculum.
The Fund for Teachers has awarded over $27 million in fellowships to about 7,500 teachers since 2011. Of 210 Connecticut grants awarded in 2017, Meriden had the third highest number of fellows statewide. Teachers are awarded up to $5,000 each.
School administrators, Board of Education representatives and Fund for Teachers staff surprised the winners in their classrooms in April.
Maloney High School English teacher Catherine Valentin was shocked when Board of Education President Mark Hughes handed her a red backpack to announce her dream journey to trace mythology in Greece and Italy would be a reality.
“No! That’s awesome,” Valentin said as her jaw dropped.
Washington Middle School math teacher Kari Baransky welled up with tears after learning her trip to Wales and Paris with colleagues Lynda Thorton and Stacy Folcik was funded.
“It’s a little crazy,” Folcik said. “I’ve got to update my passport.”
Their project will examine a rehabilitative approach to criminal justice used in Europe, “to find out about how they have taken their entire town to be restorative and use restorative practices not just as the school and prison system but the entire city,” Baransky said.
Students in Danielle Rios’ life skills class at Washington Middle School knew something was up when a group of administrators filed into the classroom.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Rios, overjoyed her trip to Puerto Rico was funded. She will be learning about the island’s cuisine and agriculture for her food and nutrition class.
“A special thanks to the Dalio Foundation and Fund for Teachers for granting our teachers the means to explore new learning opportunities,” said Erin Benham, president of the Meriden Federation of Teachers, in a statement. “This generosity has made a real difference in the lives of our teachers and the students they serve.”
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