Deadline to apply for next year’s Fund for Teacher grants is Thursday, Jan. 29
When Shana Steinhardt applied for a Fund for Teachers grant earlier this year, she did so for a very specific reason.
“After 15 years of teaching, I risked becoming stagnant,” said the Garden Oaks Montessori social studies teacher. So to expand her knowledge of Asian culture, history, and ecology, Steinhardt traveled to the steppes of Mongolia, where she met with six different herding families living a nomadic lifestyle.
“At each stop, I participated in daily living,” she said. “I milked a yak, built a ger [a type of tent shelter], dressed in a deel [a type of garment], and cooked a meal.” Steinhardt also kept her students involved over the summer by having them guess where she was based on clues in her blog.
The three-week trip, which included a visit to China and the Gobi Desert, gave Steinhardt new insight into how to teach geography. “I was struck by how each nomadic culture reflects its environment,” she said. “While students will still learn political boundaries, we will also emphasize biomes … and how each culture meets universal human needs for food, clothing, and shelter within a particular biome.”
The experience also renewed Steinhardt’s sense of adventure. “I worried less and relished challenges,” she said. “I did laundry in a river. I used a door-less wooden outhouse on the side of a highway. I crawled through a glacial ice cave, spent chilly nights in a ger under the stars, and tasted reindeer milk and silk-worm larva. It was freeing to say ‘yes’ to new experiences. I hope my example spurs students to take adventurous risks in their learning.”
Steinhardt was one of 12 HISD teachers to win a Fund for Teachers grant in 2014. Educators who want to create their own dream professional-development opportunities for the summer of 2015 should start planning now. The deadline to apply for a grant is Thursday, Jan. 29.