On Grant Writing

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National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes for Teachers

Last year, I applied for and was accepted to participate in an NEH Summer Institute for Teachers.  This grant was to visit Oaxaca for four weeks to participate in an Institute on Mesoamerican Culture and the National Endowment for the Humanities paid $3300 towards the trip. That money covered the apartment rental, air fare, meals and various other expenses.  I had some money left over to buy some art and books – and I may have had some left over to pay for expenses for some of my family to visit…

I have spent some time trying to get the word out about the NEH seminars and institutes that are available this year.  I have encouraged my colleagues to apply.  There are two seminars that are going to be in France – one in Avignon and another in Paris, Lyon, and Normandy.  There appear to be many offerings for Spanish Speakers, with destinations such as Spain, Mexico, and New York City. Many of the seminars and institutes are in the United States, but there are others (besides the ones I mentioned) that will take you to Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Austria.

These seminars are open to teachers from K thru 12th grade.  All subjects are welcome – don’t assume that a trip to Mexico, for instance, is just for Spanish teachers.  In our Institute, which took place in Oaxaca, there were art teachers, Spanish teachers, social studies teachers, and even a media specialist and a science teacher.  Read the Dear Colleague letter and think to yourself about what you can bring to the table.  There is a new part of the program where graduate students may also apply (up to 3 positions can be filled with graduate student applicants).

In order to apply for a grant, you need to register online with the NEH.  An applicant can apply for up to two different seminars or programs, but can only attend one of the choices (if the applicant is offered a spot on both!).  Then, the application process is spelled out on the web pages of each of the participating universities.  Basically, it involves writing a 4 page essay on why you want/need/have to participate in that particular seminar.  I encourage you to have some concrete ideas or lesson plans or units that you envision completing during the seminar.  You will need to procure 2 to 3 sealed letters of reference from colleagues or administrators, and write up a curriculum vitae as well.

If you are planning on taking family or your spouse with you, I suggest that you contact the director of that program.  When I went to Oaxaca, my husband was able to accompany me there.  He could not participate in any of the classes or field trips, but he did go to the opening and closing receptions.  He also did all of the shopping and errands – it was good for his Spanish, I think.

The application deadline for an NEH Summer Seminar is March 1, 2011.  The application envelope has to be postmarked before March 1st.  I recommend that you use a delivery confirmation or something that will let you know it got to its destination.  I had a really great Director who was patient when I kept e-mailing to ask if my application had arrived (even though I had used delivery confirmation, there was a snafu in even THAT process!)  The participants are notified, I think, in April, and have a limited amount of time to accept or refuse the grant so that alternates can take their places.

Fund for Teachers Travel Grants

Four years ago, I was awarded $5000 from the Fund for Teachers to study Spanish in Morelia, Michoacan (Mexico) and to collect art and arts integration ideas from the region.  The grant was for five weeks and included air fare, apartment rental, one-on-one language classes and trips to Patzcuaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Puebla.  I also had money left over from my budget to buy art pieces to exhibit at my school.

Unfortunately for most teachers who live in Georgia, there are not many school systems that are eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants.  The organization is out of Houston, Texas and the year that I applied was the one and only year that Marietta City Schools employees were eligible to apply.  I believe that there must be some sort of auxiliary present in the system – a group of wealthy people, I mean – to raise part of the funds for their teachers.  That’s just a guess.  I think I’m right:  here is a page for Partners who provide funding.  But some Partners cover a lot of states.  You need to go to the Apply page and see if your school system is eligible.

When it comes to the application process, the Fund for Teachers Program is really the most user-friendly of the two.  The entire application is done online.  That means, of course, that you need to read over the instructions carefully and come up with your itinerary, project, and projected budget before you go online “live”.  There are all sorts of helpful resources – examples of successful essays, budget tips – really everything you need to get the process done right.  The added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about postmarking and mailing the application – and then worrying about when it gets there. I think that I remember that correctly, but it may have been necessary to apply online AND send in a written application.  Check the website.

Now, when you are awarded your trip, you are expected to keep up with all of your receipts and expenses, and make a detailed financial report when you return.  You are given a couple of months to gather your report materials, and to write an essay or make a scrapbook or do SOMETHING to record your experience.

One more note on the Fund for Teachers application process.  A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in choosing the candidates for the Atlanta Program.  I believe that I received 3 to 4 applications ahead of time to read and evaluate. It was a lot of fun – we gathered at a nice restaurant and sat at round tables (about 7 to 8 to a table, I think).  After a presentation of the program and past participants, the people at my table got up and presented the application (or applications) that we thought merited a grant.  When we were done, we had ranked the applications in order of importance.  Then, the emcee went around to each table and chose grant recipients until there was no more grant money left!

It was amazing how passionate and defensive some of us got about our “pet” applicants.  We were truly disappointed when our pets did not make it.  On the other hand, it seemed easy to see those applicants who mixed up the name of the organization.  It’s not FUN for Teachers – although it can be.  I’m just saying that your application really does have to have some evidence that you will be sharing your experience with your students and colleagues.  Keep that in mind before you ask for that trip to Vegas to study “math”.

The application deadline for a Fund for Teachers Grant is January 28, 2011 @ 5:00 PM.  After that, the computer application center closes.  I know that’s short notice for this year, but, if your school system is eligible, consider it for next year.

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