millennium high school

11th hour

New York

Travel grants open to globetrotting teachers who aim to improve

Eszter Weiss and Faye Chiu, Millenium High School math teachers, exploring Archimedes Garden in Florence, Italy on a 2011 Fund for Teachers trip Faye Chiu and Eszter Weiss, veteran math teachers, spent last summer in Italy and Greece — not bathing on the Riviera or hopping the isles, but retracing the steps of the ancient mathematicians in search of inspiration to energize their curriculum at Manhattan’s Millennium High School. And while they were soaking up information about Archimedes, other city teachers were going to the far corners of the earth for their students, too: to Sweden to learn about individualized learning plans; to Iran and Turkey to collect information for helping non-Muslim students understand their school’s growing Muslim population; to Brazil to gather tips on getting girls interested in physical activity. If the trips don’t sound like the average professional development sessions, it’s because they’re not. Instead, enabled by the national organization Fund for Teachers and its local partner, New Visions for Public Schools, are fueled entirely by teachers’ own curiosities. In the past, New Visions offered the grants only to teachers affiliated with the schools it manages and supports. But this year, the nonprofit added supplementary grants of up to $10,000 that are open to teachers in all city high schools — provided that they teach courses that culminate in a Regents exam, have been teaching for at least three years, and plan to return to the classroom in September. Applications for this summer's YouPD Challenge Grants are due Feb. 29. The concept behind the grant is simple, according to Robert Hughes, New Visions’ president. “The best professional development is the professional development that teachers create and define for themselves,” he said. Hughes said the program’s expansion is meant to recognize stellar educators throughout the city. “With all of the controversy flowing around teachers it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the extensive commitment that the vast majority of teachers make,” he said. “Despite the rhetoric, we have some of the strongest teachers in the country.”