Goswami Action Grants Inspire Teachers and Students

May 28th, 2021 | By | Category: BLTN Teachers, Spring 2021

Dixie Goswami BLTN Action Grants Awarded for 2020-2021

Dixie Goswami BLTN Action Grants, made possible by a BLSE donor, are offered to any current or former BLTN member during the fall and the spring of each year. Grant awards range between $250 to $2500 and are to support BLTN-related classroom programs, projects, events, and /or travel. Below are brief descriptions of each award from the past school year.. 

  • Fallon Abel of The Sharon Academy in Sharon, VT received funding to support “Chain Reaction Day,” “a day dedicated to exploring the work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as the work that has been made possible by the movement he energized.” 
  • Liz Farrow of Oak Park and Forest River High School in Oak Park, IL applied for support for student and teacher resources for a new LGBTQ Voices Senior Elective inspired by her study at Bread Loaf and discussions in BLTN meetings.
  • Anna Loome of Stearns Jr.- Sr. High School in Millinocket, ME crafted her proposal to engage an indigenous author, teacher, and artist to “connect students with a story of our land and culture other than the white settler narrative most commonly shared in school and in town.” 
  • Chris McCurry of Lafayette High School (and Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year) in Lexington, KY received support to collaborate with a colleague to connect Kentucky BLTN teachers to a group they are launching as “a model for collaborating, researching, presenting, and implementing change.”
  • Venecia Proctor of the School for the Creative and Performing Arts at Bluegrass in Lexington, KY used funds to defray costs of a print collection of student writing and art, inspired by BLTN collaborations.
  • Kayla Hostetler of Aiken High School in Aiken, SC applied her grant to build little lending libraries (designed and constructed in collaboration with a geometry class) for her Aiken, SC community. Her students researched and ordered young adult novels featuring BIPOC and LBGTQ characters to stock the libraries. In addition, the students gave book talks on some of the books selected. 
  • Hillary Howard-Fredrick of East Jessamine High School of Nicholasville, KY was funded to support students’ independent reading with an eye for increasing the diversity of authors and characters. Hillary comments that she plans “to provide a wider variety of novels for my students’ independent reading, the hope being that fiction will help them develop empathy for their fellow humans where there may only be misunderstanding and distrust currently.” (See Hillary’s May 2021 report below.)
  • Anjali Nirman of The American School Foundation of Monterrey, Mexico used her funds to attend NCTE with fellow Bread Loafer and teacher Grace Hunter where they together presented “The Codex Project,” inspired by work in Professor Damián Baca’s class in 2019. 
  • Laura Young of Urban Promise Academy in Oakland, CA requested and received support for “Mam Language Preservation through Published Student Writing.” She used the funds to support publishing opportunities for students who speak Mam, an endangered language spoken by many of her indigenous Guatemalan students in Oakland, CA. 

Bread Loaf Teacher Network Action Grant Report

Hillary Howard-Fredrick
East Jessamine High School
Nicholasville, KY

Before delving into this exchange, my students needed exposure to the complexities of race and gender to be well-informed conversational partners. To that end, I wanted to provide a wider variety of novels for my students’ independent reading, the hope being that fiction will help them develop empathy for their fellow humans where there may only be misunderstanding and distrust currently. The more diverse books I have in my library, the more chances my students will have to read about a variety of cultures and evaluate their unconscious biases.

With the Bread Loaf Teacher Network grant money, I was able to purchase 89 new books for my classroom library, ranging from realistic teen fiction to poetry to memoir. This school year, students checked out a total of 163 books from my library, but many more students kept the books in my classroom to read each day without officially checking them out.

Having these books in my classroom allowed me to have daily conversations with students about their interests and reading habits. If I saw a student refusing to read during our choice reading time, I asked what it was they did not like about their book. Then, we got to problem-solve and sort through different books to find the perfect one, all without leaving the comfort of my class.

This benefited students in so many ways: they got personalized recommendations from me because I was familiar with the books on my shelves, they got more time to read because they did not have to go to the school library, and they had a community with which to discuss the books they grew to love. We were also able to use these books in broader conversations about curriculum and current events.

The most difficult part of this project was encouraging students to read when school was taking place virtually. I maintained our daily ten minutes of fun reading because it is incredibly important to me that we reteach high schoolers how to simply enjoy books. During virtual classes, I conferenced with students in breakout rooms about their books. I asked them about their preferred method of reading (ebook, audiobook, print) and went about finding titles in that method. For my digital readers, I helped them sign up for the Libby app and showed them how to browse for books that would interest them. For my print lovers, I created a bitmoji classroom library so they could peruse my shelves from the comfort of their homes. Each cover on the shelf is linked to the Goodreads page for that book, allowing students to see summaries and reviews. When they were ready to make a selection, they completed a Google Form with the books they would like to check out. I either put the books in the school’s front office for them to pick up or I sent books with our Youth Service Center when they did home visits.

At the end of the day, I feel that I have done my job if a student finds a book that speaks to them. Thanks to the Bread Loaf Teacher Network grant, more of my students have found that connection.

Once students were back for in-person school, I wanted to showcase all of the shiny new books we received from the grant. I began setting up weekly displays curated around different themes, such as friendship and romance. Students eagerly checked my displays each week to see which new titles I had to offer. Putting these diverse books front and center in my classroom exposed my cisgender, heterosexual, white students to stories different from their own while validating my students of color and LGBTQ+ students. Students who had never shown interest in our reading time before were eagerly grabbing books from the weekly displays. Chance, a student with an IEP who would rather be playing sports than sitting in a classroom, was a frequent visitor to these titles, checking out Concrete Rose, Let Me Hear a Rhyme, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Raileigh, a student who has never read for fun in her life, became ecstatic when she saw The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. She brought the book up to my desk with a grin from ear to ear, whispering, “Mrs. Fredrick, is this book about lesbians?” When I told her that I had many more books about lesbian characters, she could barely contain herself. She recently checked out two more books from me to take home over the summer.

My absolutely favorite thing to do in the mornings now is read! I owe it all to Mrs. Fredrick. She has so many cool books. I was never really interested in reading in high school like I was in elementary but now that’s all I seem to want to do in any of my classes. Mrs. Fredrick had one of my by far favorite books ever. It is called The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur. That book has made me love poetry and love reading. I loved it so much that she even ordered Milk and Honey by the same author for me. I was so excited, I almost read the whole book in two days. Reading is now a hobby and I can’t believe I would ever say that. I look forward to mornings at school now and I can say I owe it all to Mrs. Fredrick. – K.

One Comment to “Goswami Action Grants Inspire Teachers and Students”

  1. Tom McKenna says:

    The application period is open for BLTN Action Grants for Fall, 2021. Oct. 15 deadline. https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/review?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:e9fe23bc-b047-42f7-b0df-26e332f7b545

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