A group of local teachers are ready to embark on educational journeys beyond local school buildings.
The Simple Gifts Teacher Fellowship Grant Program recently announced the recipients for the summer. Now in its seventh year, the purpose is to support learning opportunities by providing experiences outside a traditional classroom session.
Amanda Byrd, a Sampson Middle School math teacher, is pursuing graduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for professional development. She will take courses focused on middle grades mathematics with an emphasis on trends and practices. She currently works with gifted math students at the school.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for teachers to expand their horizons and investigate new experiences related to their curriculum,” Byrd said.
As a teacher with 20 years of experience, Byrd is working to a obtain a master’s in middle grades math.
Valarie Fretwell, a guidance counselor at Butler Avenue, will travel central Europe. Her purpose is to learn about cultures around the world. Some the stops may include architectural landmarks, art museums or even simple coffee stops.
She believes Simple Gifts is an amazing program that’s not utilized enough in the school system.
“They want to help the teachers out and they want to help them grow, professionally and personally,” Fretwell said. “There’s not a lot of places where teachers have this opportunity.”
As a counselor, Fretwell enjoys helping students in school through intervention.
“I wanted to get into the school system so I can help bridge the gap and put a bridge between our parents, school, community and get them all together to build a stronger school base.”
Sampson Middle’s Penny Thorne plans to visit math museums throughout the United States for enrichment and growth. She teaches eighth-grade students at the school.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity it’s going to provide me and my students,” Thorne said.
She added that math students are always asking how math is applied in real life. Thorne said her upcoming experience is a good way for teachers to improve themselves and the classroom. As a teacher, she wants to help students improve in areas where they’re struggling.
“We all use math in real life, even when we don’t realize it,” she said. “This is an opportunity to go to the math museums and bring back items and scenarios they could use to realize that yes, we do use math when we’re snowboarding, skateboarding or just doing things in our daily lives.”
With a fondness for stories, Tereza Triolo plans to travel to Germany and other European countries to study fairy tale literature. She’s taking a trip to travel the route of the Brothers Grimm, authors who collected and published folklore during the 19th century.
“I will be stopping along the way at various towns where the brothers stayed and learned about local legends and folktales which they in turn spun into the fairy tales we read today,” Triolo said.
The trip will also consist of festivals, tour of medieval villages and interviews. In the fall, she will share the experience with students through pictures and tales of her experience.
“Getting the kids excited is going to be the best part,” Triolo said.
Sandra Pearson is also elated about the opportunity provided by Simple Gifts. She’s happy about the opportunity, which allows her to learn about Greek culture. By visiting Greece, she plans to visit ancient historical landmarks, volcanic islands and famous monuments such as the Parthenon.
“I’m excited about seeing the similarities and differences between the American and Greek cultures,” Pearson said while talking about her upcoming experience. “Many things derived from Greek culture, such as the alphabet. The Greek alphabet had an influence on the English alphabet.”
Margaret Turlington, coordinator for Simple Gifts, is looking forward to the teachers enjoying their future experience. Officials emphasized that the “fellowships are not vacation.”
“It’s gives educators an opportunity in the summer to explore a passion, to do graduate school work, to travel, and to enrich their lives and come back in the fall, rejuvenated as an educator,” Turlington said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.