Teacher Grant Funds Educational Travel

A local history teacher will be taking a trip to Florence, Italy, to study Renaissance art and architecture and bring alive the past for his students.

Brian Martinez has been teaching sixth through eighth grade history at Liberty Classical Academy in White Bear Lake for three years. He’s been a teacher for 22 years.

Martinez received the grant, of about $4,500, from Fund for Teachers and the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation (VHACF).

“Professionally, it is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Martinez said. “I think it brings the past into the current for students.”

He teaches medieval, Renaissance and Reformation and modern history. Before coming to Liberty, he was not very familiar with the Renaissance and conducted considerable research in order to teach about it, he said. This is why he chose Florence as a place to further his education in person. For one week this summer, he will visit museums and focus on how art and architecture of the era influenced history. He will also take students on field trips in the Twin Cities to see how Minnesota was influenced by Renaissance art and architecture. His experience in Italy will help bring history alive for students, he added.

“There’s just a sense of joy that I have been given this opportunity,” he said.

VHACF has been partnering with Fund for Teachers for nine years, said board member Muriel Janneke. Approximately half of the annual grant is funded by each entity. Any PreK-12 teacher in the White Bear Lake or Mounds View district areas can apply. For two or more teachers working together, the grant can be up to about $10,000.

VHACF has funded several teachers to travel in order to further their expertise on a topic related to their teaching, Janneke said. “By going and experiencing, it brings context to everything you teach,” said VHACF Chair Jerry Moynagh.

The first grant awarded in 2011 was for two teachers to attend a conference in Minnesota, Janneke noted. In 2012, two teachers attended a conference in New York. Beginning in 2013, grant recipients have traveled internationally to Namibia, Argentina, Poland, London, Spain and Iceland. The grant amount was increased in 2016 with the support of Fund for Teachers. This year, Fund for Teachers awarded $2 million in grants to 502 teachers.

Raymond Plank, who grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota, founded Fund for Teachers in 2001. He founded and managed Apache Corporation, a global energy enterprise, for 55 years. Since he founded Fund for Teachers nearly 20 years ago as a way to do something for the community, the fund has given grants to 8,500 teachers nationally.

A Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation committee selects a local winner of the grant each year. Applications for next year open Oct. 1. For more information on how to apply or donate, visit vhacf.org/fund-for-teachers/. The foundation also supports other local organizations in the Vadnais Heights area.

Liberty Classical Academy history teacher Brian Martinez, center, received a grant of about $4,500 from the Vadnais Heights Area Community Foundation. He is pictured with Rebekah Hagstrom, right, headmaster of the school, and Muriel Janneke, left, advisory board member of the foundation.

Press Publication article by Sara Marie Moore, Editor