Teachers head to Brazil, look to Shanghai and compete for Teacher of the Year

Heather Haines, a science teacher at the Community Charter School of Cambridge, with students in her lab.

Heather Haines, a science teacher at the Community Charter School of Cambridge, with students in her lab.

As students look forward to graduating with honors in coming weeks, local teachers are coming through spring with some honors of their own.

bullet-gray-smallPeter Mili, a teacher and instructional coach at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, has been named by the NEA Foundation as a Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow, becoming one of 36 award-winning public school educators building “global competency skills” in part through classroom observation in Brazil in June.

bullet-gray-smallHeather Haines, a science teacher at the Community Charter School of Cambridge, has been selected as one of 11 semifinalists in the 2014 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Program, with final selection coming early this month.

bullet-gray-smallPhuong Luong, a Somerville resident teaching at the Vassal Lane Upper School, is one of 30 finalists for a Hilton Teacher Treks grant, with 15 going on to travel and experience firsthand the subject they teach – in this case to Shanghai to find better ways to teach math.

Phuong Luong, a teacher at the Vassal Lane Upper School

Phuong Luong, a teacher at the Vassal Lane Upper School

“During the school year, I have limited time to reflect on my own teaching or to observe experienced math teachers and their students in the process of teaching and learning math,” she said. Her bid to expand her vision of math instruction – to study firsthand at Shanghai’s Fudan Fuzhong High School’s Longfeifei Youth Summer Camp Math Olympiad in July – was one of thousands reported by Hilton HHonors, which partners with the Institute of International Education to on the Teacher Treks Travel Grant Competition.

The list is winnowed to 30 by public voting, then to 15, with those getting grants valued at $6,000 to travel to a destination of their choice. Each winning teachers’ school gets a $2,500 grant to use for cultural activities or enhancements. (The 15 runners-up get $2,500 grants for their schools to use for cultural activities or enhancements.) One winner from all submissions will get a cultural excursion for their classroom valued at $1,500.

“I believe that my work as an educator requires me to be a lifelong student,” she said.

Peter Mili, of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School

Peter Mili, of Cambridge Rindge & Latin School

While Luong’s achievement is focused around the July 1-19 olympiad, the June 19-27 trip to Brazil is only one aspect of Mili’s work with the National Education Association. Before going, he’ll study the country and learn some Portuguese. He is to blog throughout and afterward will apply what he learned to the CRLS curriculum and share it with educators around the world via an open source platform.

“For students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.

Haines’ honor may take her no farther than the State House in Boston, where she and other semifinalists will be recognized June 13 at a Teacher of the Year award ceremony. If she wins, though, she will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year Program and act as an ambassador for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education during the 2013-14 school year.

Haines joined the charter school’s faculty in 2010. She teaches chemistry and AP chemistry, leads the school’s science department and is adviser to students in the Class of 2016.

“Heather has distinguished herself in so many ways at CCSC,” said Caleb Hurst-Hiller, head of school. “She is an innovative teacher who pushes her students beyond what they themselves are convinced is possible. She is a reflective practitioner, opening her classroom to all and soliciting feedback from many. We are truly fortunate to count her as a member of our dedicated and talented faculty.”

In Haines’ words, she tries to take students who “come to my classroom thinking they do not personally know any scientists” and show them they are already scientists able “to engineer a better water bottle, become exquisite chefs and develop new alternative energy sources. I empower my students to ask the same questions as scientists who came before and show them how they can use their natural curiosity to dazzle the world.”

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