(Arapahoe, WY) – Local educators and married couple Heather and Patrick Pasquinelli were recently awarded a grant from Fund for Teachers, a nationally recognized group that will now be providing them with funds to travel to Rwanda this summer to study the genocides that occurred there during the Rwandan Civil War.
Heather and Patrick, special education and high school English teachers at Arapaho Charter High School, were two of the 396 teachers nationwide chosen for the grants, and were awarded $10,000.
Fund for Teachers is a National nonprofit that invests in PK-12 teachers’ self-designed summer fellowships to engage public/private/charter school students with relevant learning, and awarded $1.7 million in grants this year for experiential learning across North America and around the world.
Fund for Teachers grants are nationally unique in that they invite teachers to pursue any topic, anywhere, individually or as a team of two or more. This flexibility represents trust in teachers’ professionalism and capacity for meeting the diverse needs of each classroom and student.
Heather commented that she heard about Fund For Teachers and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation in an email from the Superintendent at Arapaho Schools.
“I met someone over the summer who had been a recipient of the grant, so I contacted her to see about the process,” Heather stated. “I had heard about this teacher trip to Rwanda over the summer when I attended TOLI Seminar, and I had really wanted to go, but it was so expensive for us. So Patrick and I decided to put in the request as a team so we could go together.”
Now that they have been awarded the grant, the Pasquinellis will “Experience memorial sites associated with the Rwandan genocide to identify pertinent and applicable learning experiences that help students extend their knowledge of the world outside of their Native American reservation, as well as knowledge about generational trauma, poverty, and displacement that extends beyond this community.”
“Heather and I traveling to Rwanda to study the genocide and restorative justice practices is not only a journey of knowledge but also a journey of empathy and hope, as we witness the power of forgiveness and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable tragedy,” Patrick told County 10.
“I feel so honored to be awarded this grant,” Heather added. “I am grateful to Fund For Teachers and the John P. Ellbogen Foundation for recognizing the importance of allowing teachers to have opportunities to expand their knowledge.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a community that has also experienced historical trauma and genocide,” Heather went on to share. “I am looking forward to being able to share what we learned with our students and community of Arapaho Charter High School.
“Teachers are the backbone of our society,” executive director Karen Eckhoff stated in a press release. “They educate, encourage, and empower the children who will shape our future. And in our post-pandemic, school shooting society, their role is even more amplified. There can be no better investment.”
Since 2001, Fund for Teachers has invested $36 million in more than 9,500 educators, transforming grants into growth for teachers and their students. In addition to its summer fellowships, the organization also re-invests in its Fellows by awarding Innovation Circle Grants to deepen learning around a topic (this year “Centering Students”) – first independently during the summer, then throughout the fall with other Fellows and led by a Fellow. Over the past two decades, FFT Fellows have pursued new knowledge and insights in 170 different countries on all seven continents, with the majority remaining in North America.
A complete list of 2023 FFT Fellows can be found here.