Grants help teachers pursue personal, intellectual growth

Several area teachers will be able to take some time to explore areas of interest thanks to Lilly Endowment grants.

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

With help from a state grant, one local teacher will build a railroad this summer, another will swim with sharks and dolphins, while others will travel overseas.

Five teachers from Elkhart County schools earned Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships of $8,000 to be used to explore a particular passion. According to information from the Lilly Endowment, the grants are to help teachers pursue personal and intellectual growth.

Here are the names of those five teachers' projects and their plans for the summer.

“All Roads Lead to Rome”

Kyle Davis, a history teacher and swim coach at Elkhart Memorial, will travel to Italy to research his ancestral roots through his mother's side. He'll also study the history and culture of the country and create an interactive website about the Roman Empire that will then have a place in his classes.

“I am going to make a website that is like a map that students can click on and get pictures and information about the things I saw in Italy, especially the places that we talk about in world history,” he said in an email.

“Murder is the Muse: Uncovering the Mysteries of English Writers”

Trista Delgado, a teacher at Osolo Elementary, will be traveling to England to study some of her favorite mystery writers. She'll leave her home in Goshen to experience the culture that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Agatha Christie and others, also trying her hand at writing her own mysteries.

“Lions and Tigers and Bears...”

Kathie Kenworthy is pairing her love of photography with her teaching of first grade at Jefferson Elementary School.

Kenworthy plans to start her summer with a week-long photography course in Indianapolis. She'll then travel to Florida, Washington D.C., Connecticut and Maine, where she's scheduled to visit several zoos, aquariums and other animal habitats, including Chincoteague Island, Va. where wild ponies roam, to photograph wildlife. She has several “close encounters” set with the animals too, including swimming with dolphins and sharks.

“The whole time I'll be taking pictures and when I come back to Indiana, I'll be making some easy readers for kids, with pictures and simple text,” she said. She'll use them in her classroom, she said, and also give some to other teachers at the school.

“Working on the Blooming Railroad”

Kenneth Leach, a graphic arts teacher at the Elkhart Area Career Center, will be spending his summer outside his home, putting in a railroad, small enough for a yard, but large enough for kids — and possibly adults — to ride.

“I've been a model railroad ran for about a decade or so,” he said. His wife, Louise, loves to garden vegetables and flowers and even aqua plants in a large pond they constructed a few years ago.

Once completed, Leach said, the train will allow people to take a train ride, while touring the family's gardens.

Leach already has a battery-powered engine and two riding cars. The bulk of the work will be digging, putting in a foundation and laying the railroad tracks and ties. Along with that, he'll have to figure out the angles and curves that will make everything work correctly.

“It's a real railroad, only it's smaller,” he said.

Icons and Echoes

Brian Whirledge, an art teacher at New Paris and Millersburg Elementary schools, will take his independent study of Byzantine iconography and chant to a new level.

Whirledge has been studying both arts on his own time the last few years, using his Spring Break last year to paint an icon of Christ at St. Mary's Orthodox Church in Goshen.

“The two arts are very much connected,” he said, “in that they're both artistic expressions of the gospel.”

This summer, he'll travel to Greece to be an apprentice to a master of Byzantine chant and a master of iconography, then bring those skills back to northern Indiana.

“You can only go so far by independent study,” he said. With 1,700 years of oral tradition behind both arts, “there's a whole lot to learn from a master that can't really be written in a book.”

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