09/02/2009
Teacher Tribute
Teacher Retreat re-ignites teacher motivation

Beginning and experienced Need in Deed Teacher Network members meet for annual training

“What we’re doing is radical,” said McCall teacher Lisa Hantman at a recent gathering of NID’s Teacher Network. “It’s not all about PSSA’s.”

Lisa is an experienced Network member and a veteran teacher in Philadelphia public schools. Her enthusiasm for NID’s approach to teaching and learning was shared by the other 27 teachers who gathered for a two day, overnight retreat in late July to immerse themselves in NID’s service-learning pedagogy.

As part of the weekend training, Robert Rivera and Patrick Kennison, both new to the Network last year, walked their colleagues through their students’ projects – one on water pollution, the other on wrongful convictions.

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Robert Rivera likes using technology to motivate and inspire his students. Most of his 4th graders at Willard Elementary are English language learners. He adapted one of NID’s signature activities – “If I could change one thing in the world” – to an on-line blog where students could write about the social issues that most concerned them. By watching videos online on “Discovery Education” about land, air and water pollution, they were able to narrow their project focus down to water pollution. They created the first of four podcasts on the subject on May 1st, Earth Day. Robert talked candidly about what he would do differently now that he has some experience with the process, and expressed great pride in his students’ accomplishments.

Patrick Kennison is a science teacher at Harding Middle School who juggles many responsibilities, including serving as the school-based science coach. His students appreciate Patrick’s hands-on approach to teaching and love “doing science.” Finding a way to integrate service-learning wasn’t easy and his project, consequently, moved forward in fits and starts. But he is clearly an advocate for student voice – an often non-linear process.

“We mowed the grass where we wanted to go,” said Patrick.

Patrick’s students applied their knowledge of forensics to a project on wrongful convictions. They met with attorney Michael Banks who, with his Morgan Lewis colleague Gordon Cooney, helped free a wrongfully convicted man from death row in 2003. Then they met with Marissa Bluestine from Pennsylvania’s Innocence Project. The money the students raised at a school-wide “dress down” day will be used to underwrite the cost of a DNA test for a man imprisoned for a crime the Innocence Project believes he did not commit.

Another highlight of the retreat was hearing from Joe Davis, the survivor of a gunshot injury that left him paralyzed at age 26 almost 30 years ago. Joe, who was a community partner in several NID classes this year, now works for Magee Rehabilitation Hospital as the director of its “Think First” program.

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