Cory Schneider, Middle School English and History Head Teacher and Service Learning Program Coordinator, and Julia Duffy, Elementary Division Science Head Teacher, crafted unique and engaging proposals for international experiences that relate directly to their curriculum, and were awarded each with over $7,500 to pursue their professional development goals.
They recently shared short five to ten minute presentations
about their experiences at an all staff meeting, which also served as the launch of this school year’s application process.
COMMUNITY AND SERVICE: PUTTING CORE VALUES INTO PRACTICE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
Corey Schneider traveled to Southeast Asia to experience diversity and service learning personally and challenge his own perceptions, hoping to learn more about the issues we want our students to be engaged with. Sustainability is chief among these, but in a more general sense, poverty, education, and food scarcity are large and comprehensive topics that demand close examination. During his trip, he visited NGO’s across Vietnam and Cambodia to gain first hand experience. “I stepped out of the classroom and away from carefully produced videos and readings, toward real world experiences that expose the rawness of these issues,” he said.
Cory was able to put RSS’s core values into practice in Southeast Asia, where he used the lens of education and community development to address the root causes of need in Cambodia and Thailand. His goal was to return to RSS and help students understand philanthropy in an organic way. One of Cory’s personal goals was to “gain confidence in and fluency with the business and inner workings of philanthropy.”
“I wanted to know how these foundations run – how do we know if an organization is one we should give to, and what makes one environmentally focused initiative ‘worth’ funding over another, so I could bring this knowledge back into the classroom,” he said.
The grant experience gave him a nuanced, multi-layered perspective on sustainability work as it took place in real time, and he was challenged to try to make a lasting, meaningful difference. He guest taught in a classroom in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a week, and made lasting connections with non-profits and individuals both there and in Vietnam. “I didn’t want to be the white male American teacher who came into a classroom [in Siem Reap] as a ‘voluntourist’ and took over teaching for a week – I wanted to provide these teachers – many who don’t even have college degrees – with sustainable techniques to help students learn long term,” he said.
Through sustained engagement with these causes and organizations – and a willingness to get his hands dirty – Cory now feels authentically capable of translating this information to our students, and rousing them to effect real change. “This trip helped me realize so much about myself as a teacher,” Cory said. “I will definitely be bringing what I learned in Southeast Asia back into the classroom this year, and will draw on my experiences to help reconfigure the Service Learning Program at RSS.”
As a student herself, Julia Duffy became fascinated by the beautiful country of Iceland after seeing photos of its natural resources in National Geographic. The Paul Druzinsky grant gave her the opportunity to live out her dream of visiting Iceland’s glacial lakes, boiling mud, gorges, geysers and lava fields.
“I had always wanted to go to Iceland, but I never really put the idea into practice until I applied for the Druzinsky grant,” Julia said. “After I started putting my proposal together, I became even more excited researching all of the things I could see and explore in Iceland, and bring back into my classroom.”
Inspired by the introduction of a new unit of study in her curriculum about volcanoes, Julia was thrilled to discover the only volcano in the world where people can go inside a magma chamber was in Iceland.
“While I know it’s fine to say, ‘I don’t know’, or ‘Let’s look that up together,” I can now say to my students, ‘Yes, I do know the answer to your question about volcanoes, and in fact, I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” Julia said.
Another subject that Julia is keenly interested in teaching her students about is alternative energy sources. Iceland is almost entirely powered through geothermal and hydroelectric energy.
RSS established the Paul Druzinsky Teacher Enrichment Fund in 2013. This fund honors our former Head of School Paul Druzinsky’s legacy of hiring and developing talented faculty. Through the Fund, RSS faculty are able to explore interests or passions first hand and outside of the school environment, returning to their positions at RSS inspired, refreshed, and even more prepared for success. Both Cory and Julia highly recommended other RSS teachers apply to the Druzinsky Grant program.
“If it weren’t for this grant, I wouldn’t have been able to visit all of these amazing places in Iceland and learn about volcanoes, hot springs and geysers first hand,” Julia said. “I know I keep saying this, but it really was just an incredible experience!”
RSS faculty considering applying for a Paul Druzinsky Grant are encouraged to think broadly about novel learning experiences that would breathe new life into a career, or trips or projects that would provide new perspectives on areas of deep personal interest.
It is not essential for proposals to connect directly to one’s specific area of instruction (e.g., math, history, art, science); however, RSS faculty applicants should note skills or knowledge that will be gained that would enhance their effectiveness as a teacher and professional. And, Julia warns, don’t become discouraged.
“The first time I submitted my proposal, I didn’t win. But I wasn’t discouraged, and I did even more research – I’m so glad that I submitted a second time because I was able to partake in this remarkable trip,” Duffy said.
Applications for the 2015-2016 Paul Druzinsky Teacher Enrichmnt Fund launched on November 10th, and the deadline for proposals is Thursday, January 8th, 2016.