Newburgh Teachers Plant Seeds For Future Global Service Learning In Galapagos
Jacqueline Hesse and Christine McCartney, English teachers at Excelsior Academy at NFA, are preparing for a two-week expedition to Ecuador this August– an odyssey they plan to recreate with students in following years. They proposed this experiential learning opportunity last fall to Fund for Teachers, a nonprofit that awards teacher grants for self-designed professional development. Learning of their acceptance in April, the teaching team finalized the South American itinerary, which includes volunteering in a service learning experience and collaborating with international organizations to solidify a new service learning curriculum that empowers Excelsior Academy students to thrive despite challenging circumstances and give back to the community they call home.
The teachers believe that by inviting students to travel to a foreign community to think about community issues and volunteer their service they will build the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to return to Newburgh to identify and address issues in their city. “Integral to our students’ 21st century education is invitations to research issues and advocate for change at the local level,” said Mrs. McCartney when discussing their motivation for initiating a global service learning program. After volunteering in Ecuador (a location chosen based on demographic and socioeconomic similarities with Newburgh), the teachers say they’ll have the knowledge and professional associations necessary to initiate a successful Global Service Learning program at Excelsior Academy, a New York State PTech school.
This fellowship builds on the teachers’ commitment to service learning. Last year, students visited elderly veterans at a local VA hospital and participated in fundraisers for the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. These service opportunities will now go toward accumulating enough volunteer hours to join the teachers’ return trip to the Galapagos islands in 2017, a trip for which students will also fundraise.
Our responsibility as educators extends beyond simply teaching students’ literacy skills,” said Hesse. “We are also tasked with fostering the skills students need to become empowered and create change. This fellowship provides us with an avenue to give back to the community ourselves while teaching our students the importance of communitymindedness and civic action.”
McCartney and Hesse are two of 500 preK12 teachers who designed their own summer learning with Fund for Teachers grants this year. Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has invested approximately $26 millionin selfdesigned fellowships of more than 7,000 preK12 teachersacross the United States, changing their role from knowledge takers to knowledge makers.
Fund for Teachers is a national program that enriches the personal and professional growth of preK12 teachers by investing in their ideas for relevant learning that has the greatest impact on their careers, students and school communities. You can read more about Fund for Teachers’ mission and impact on the organization’s blog, Facebook and Twitter feed.