Hewitt’s summer grant program supports faculty experiences that align with the school’s four academic pillars - presence, empathy, research, and purpose. Made possible by support from the Hewitt Parents’ Association and from Hewitt's professional development fund, summer grants are just one of the many professional development opportunities offered to members of the Hewitt community throughout the year. Read on to learn how this year’s summer grant recipients engaged in mindful interactions, expanded their perspectives, fostered their own growth mindset, and affirmed their purpose as educators and as individuals.
Chris Han, History Teacher
My Hewitt summer grant enabled me to travel to parts of Honduras to explore its geography, culture, and history. I teach middle school history and ethics, and Honduras's rich past, including the Maya civilization and European colonization, provided a glimpse into how geographic diversity may have played a role in shaping the country’s history. A visit to the Copán Ruinas was an opportunity to experience the grandiosity and the complexity of a Maya city nestled in the lush Copan Valley. With intricate carvings of glyphs and images impressed on stone architecture and modern underground tunnels to view multi-layered buildings, each layer representing the reign of a king, it was easy to see why UNESCO names this as one of the most important Mayan sites in the world.
In contrast to the mountainous mainland, the Bay Islands were a tropical oasis with constant trade winds that readily brought to mind the European explorers and colonists who used the islands as their base and settlement. A visit to the Garifuna community in Roatán was a vivid reminder of the ongoing challenges of a historically oppressed community, including the question of how societies come to terms with institutional crimes against humanity and make amends to their legacies. Throughout my travel, I was struck by the gentleness and warmth of the people of Honduras. From guides to shopkeepers to schoolchildren, local residents were proud of their heritage and curious about mine.
Anusheh Hashim, Lower School Head Teacher
When Maria Montessori opened her first school in 1907, her ideas – that children are the most motivated when they make choices about their learning, that hands-on work is engaging and effective, and that children learn best through collaboration with one another – were revolutionary. Today, these principles guide many educational institutions, including our own Hewitt School. With the help of generous summer grant funding, I was able to enroll in a leadership course administered through the West Side Montessori School. I spent three weeks studying the theories and philosophy of Maria Montessori alongside a cohort of women leaders and changemakers in the field of early education.
Over the course of three weeks, we learned about children and their development, engagement, and positive discipline, as well as ethical and practical leadership and teacher development. This experience has made it even more clear to me that many of Montessori’s practices – especially the careful preparation of the classroom environment and the self-reflection that teachers engage in to make their work transformative – are closely aligned with our work at Hewitt. I’m leaving this course reaffirmed in my belief that it is critical to incorporate student voice into our curriculum development, and reminded of how impactful opportunities for choice are on students’ motivation.
James Oates, Physical Education Teacher
My summer grant allowed me to fulfill a lifelong ambition of traveling to St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland, where I conducted research into how we can incorporate golf skills into the physical education program at Hewitt. St. Andrews is a magical place steeped in history, and being there provided me with knowledge about the game that I look forward to bringing to Hewitt’s P.E. department, including new ways to develop students’ hand-eye-coordination and balance. My grant also allowed me to develop my sense of purpose as I completed the Coast to Coast, a day-long bike ride in which I departed from the west coast of England and traveled 137 miles to the country’s east coast, climbing over 10,000 feet in the process. The terrain was challenging and included a long series of hills, and I finished the final 20 miles of the ride in the dark. The experience pushed me to the limit both physically and mentally, and though I wondered if I would be able to carry on, I was ultimately able to push myself to complete the final miles of the journey. By the time I finished, I was exhausted but ecstatic to have completed a challenge for which I had spent months training and preparing. Throughout my 15 hours of biking, I learned a lot about my own limits and how to push myself to persevere. I will draw on these experiences as I follow my purpose to guide Hewitt students to develop a lifelong relationship with health and wellness, to persevere in their own athletic pursuits, and to take great joy in achieving a difficult goal.
Miriam Walden, Upper School English Teacher
This summer, I spent five weeks revisiting a novel I started writing when completing my M.F.A. My grant gave me the freedom to devote myself fully to the craft of writing each day. Each morning, my yoga practice helped me to embody a meditation about myself and my work. By setting a particular intention, I opened myself to the creative process, which requires being receptive to the unexpected. I then critically read my original manuscript, and, most importantly, tried to write new material. In addition to the daily work of writing, I looked to other related creative work as sources of inspiration, such as documentary films and autobiographical accounts of the onset of the AIDS crisis, during which my novel is set. I attended a marathon Wednesday performance of Parts 1 and 2 of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America on Broadway, and immersed myself in Nick Cave’s installation and performance art at The Park Avenue Armory, “The Let Go” and “The Freedom Ball.” I also spent several meaningful hours at The Whitney studying the exhibit “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night,” which included a wealth of work relevant to my own storytelling and research. Through writing, I discovered that my novel’s narrative voice has changed dramatically, and my sense of each character has become deeper and more sophisticated. In recognizing this shift, I reflected on the many crucial ways that I have transformed personally since first starting to tell this story years ago. The summer grant program gave me a working writer’s most valuable gift: time to clear my mind and allow my characters to live.
Claire Arnod, World Languages Department Chair
As a French teacher and speaker of French, English, German, and Russian, I have always had a love of languages and linguistics. I set out to study Spanish so that I could better collaborate with my colleagues in the world languages department here at Hewitt, and I used my summer grant to travel to Mexico to continue learning the language. I chose Mexico in particular because I was upset by the way Mexico and Mexican people have been depicted in the media and in the news, and I could see the danger of the single story about our neighbor to the south. During my time in Mexico City, abbreviated as CDMX, I improved my Spanish while learning about the country’s rich culture, history, and future. In addition to exploring many beautiful museums including Museo Nacional de Antropología and Museo de Arte Popular, I discovered that CDMX is the 2018 World Design Capital and home to one of my favorite architects, Luis Barragan. My travels also taught me about Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, a scientist and the first woman to be elected mayor of CDMX, and about the many ways in which Mexican history is truly global history. Finally, I learned that we shouldn't wait 10 years to visit our next door neighbors!
Arlene Padilla, Middle and Upper School Spanish Teacher
As a Spanish teacher, I love to learn about other cultures and languages, and this summer I was given the opportunity to travel to and immerse myself in Slovenia. Slovenia is the meeting point of the Slavic, Germanic, and Latin cultures, each of which has influenced the country’s architecture and food. As I pushed myself to learn Slovenian, I was humbled by the experience of being a student once again. During my trip I enjoyed a personal tour and history lesson of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, led by a local family. I explored the beauty of country during a trip to Lake Bled, which looked like something out of a storybook with its panoramic and peaceful views, and which was also home to a delicious local dessert called a vanilla slice. A final highlight of my trip was a visit to Predjama Castle, a fortress that is built into the Postojna caves. The caves are a natural work of art and I was in awe of their beauty. I am grateful to Hewitt for supporting this travel experience, and while I may not yet be fluent in Slovenian, I learned a great deal from this experience. Hvala! Thank you!