OVERVIEW: Fund for Teachers is a donor-supported nonprofit that gives fellowships to pre-K through 12th grade educators (individuals or teams) for their “efforts to develop skills, knowledge and confidence that impact student achievement” with the goal of achieving "growth for teachers and their students." Grants are administered locally by the foundation's local partners.
IP TAKE: Fund for Teachers is mindful of empowering the community it serves. Its grants go directly to educators (broadly defined) who develop their own project proposals. Successful grant projects must markedly enrich teachers' professional development as well as the students and school communities they serve. Like good teachers, this fund scores applications thoughtfully and rigorously.
PROFILE: Let’s start our introduction to Fund for Teachers with its mission statement, which is a mix of the practical and the aspirational:
Fund for Teachers enriches the personal and professional growth of teachers by recognizing and supporting them as they identify and pursue opportunities around the globe that will have the greatest impact on their practice, the academic lives of their students and on their school communities.
As it explains in its program information page (updated annually), Fund for Teachers supports full-time educators working in preschool through 12th grade "classroom-like" settings for at least 50 percent of their full-time work days. These grants, therefore, are not limited to traditional classroom teachers; librarians, counselors, technology specialists, and others are also eligible for support. The only other across-the-board stipulations are that you must have at least three years of teaching experience and that you plan "to return to the classroom in the consecutive school year."
Fund for Teachers has no geographic limitations. It supports educators in all 50 states through its general application, which offers up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for teams per fellowship. In some states, Fund for Teachers has additional partnerships in place; an interactive map will let you know if there are funds and collaborations available for which you may qualify.
In selecting successful grantees, Fund for Teachers seeks applicants "possessing a broad vision of what it means to teach and learn, [and] the resources needed to pursue self-designed professional learning experiences." Additionally, the fund continually reinforces the three stakeholders a fellowship must serve: the educator, her/his students, and the community.
That the proposed fellowship must serve all three of these populations is further reinforced by the scoring rubric Fund for Teachers developed for its application process (and which many educators will find similar to the rubrics they use with their own students). Three of the seven categories of scoring are “Teacher Growth and Learning,” “Student Growth and Learning,” and “Benefits to School Community.” The rubric is openly shared to all who might apply because the fund encourages its applicants to mindfully engineer their proposals to fit the fund’s standards. Applicants may find additional support by reviewing excerpts of successful applications from previously funded fellowships.
And what are these projects that teachers successfully propose? Executive Director Karen Webb shared some fellowships that she felt were notable and emblematic of the fund:
- Traveling to England to explore the world of Harry Potter in order to "bring literature to life."
- Kayaking the lower Mississippi River for scientific research and to develop a river ecology curriculum.
- Studying early Roman architecture through the lens of mathematics in order to enrich teaching that subject through visual imagery.
There are thousands more examples of previous projects to draw upon as well. In fact, since it was established in 2001, Fund for Teachers has doled out tens of millions of dollars to thousands of teachers. It extrapolates that reach to also include more than 18 million students in about 4,000 classrooms. The fund also breaks down the subject areas and geographic reach of teachers’ fellowships, has a searchable database that allows you to explore past support by subject area, state, student age group, and funding year, and highlights featured award recipients through its newsletter and news page.
In terms of practicalities, applicants should expect their fellowship to take place during the summer teaching break (this opportunity isn’t about sabbaticals). Areas excluded from eligibility are "student travel, the completion of baccalaureate or post baccalaureate degrees, teacher certifications, university/college credit hours, courses for graduate credit, onsite (or campus) professional development at your school or by the district, [and] compensation for substitutes or stipends." There is also a five-year mandatory waiting period between applications, so approach Fund for Teachers with your absolute best shot.
- Karen K. Webb, Executive Director