Three from Hawaii selected as 2021 Grosvenor Teacher Fellows

Congratulations Farrington High School teacher Ellie Kantar and Sunset Beach Elementary School teacher Laura Cummings for being selected as 2021 Grosvenor Teacher Fellows! They join Christina Torres of Punahou School and 47 other educators from across the United States and Canada as the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship’s 14th annual cohort. Heres what they had to say about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Ellie Kantar
Ellie KantarFarrington High
Laura Cummings
Laura CummingsSunset Beach Elementary

How did you find out about this experience?

EK “I discovered this experience by completing the National Geographic Educator Certification program. I have always loved National Geographic, so when I learned they had a professional development program for teachers, I signed up right away. Through the Educator Certification, I became familiar with National Geographic online education platform, the resources they have available, and the network of educators around the world that connect through the platform. This showed me that the knowledge and resources National Geographic was offering were directly applicable to both me and my students, so when I learned there was more I could do to work with the organization, I knew I had to apply.”

LC “I teach science and math to students identified as gifted and talented in science and math, so when the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), I broadened my horizon of resources. During my extensive search for exemplary resources, I found the National Geographic Educator Certification program. Their learning framework for skills, knowledge, and attitudes is aligned with my values in teaching and what I would like to instill in my students. I also enjoyed having a phenomenal network of educators across the world, as well as access to quality professional development aligned with NGSS. I have since taken additional National Geographic courses, such as Teaching Global Climate Change, and Storytelling for Impact in Your Classroom: Photography. This amazing partnership with Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Society was intriguing and inspiring, and I knew that being part of something like this would offer me and my students opportunities to make positive change in our local and global communities.”

What prompted you to apply?

LC “I think that every effective teacher signs up to be a lifelong learner when this career is pursued. Content is always being updated, and pedagogies continue to evolve, so I am always looking for learning opportunities for my students as well as myself. When I am excited about learning and teaching, and can share personal experiences, lessons are more compelling and my excitement is reflected in my students who have stronger connections to what they are learning. National Geographic photography, storytelling, and exploration have opened up pathways in classrooms to help students develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in engaging and creative ways. I believe that this professional development opportunity will allow me to discover, explore, connect with experts, and fine-tune my photography and storytelling skills to be able to create unique learning experiences that are customized to my students’ interests and needs.”

What will you be doing?

EK “Lindblad Expeditions organizes voyages all over the world with the goal of inspiring people to explore and care for our planet, and in the past, they have sent teachers to a number of different locations including the Arctic, the British & Irish Isles, the Galapagos Islands, Southeast Alaska, the Canadian Maritimes & Newfoundland, Costa Rica & Panama, the South Pacific, or even Antarctica on a ship in their National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions Fleet. Ultimately, no matter where I go, the expedition will provide me a unique hands-on, field-based opportunity to learn from our planet’s geography, the ship’s expedition team, National Geographic photographers, and the other incredible teachers selected for this fellowship from across the U.S. and Canada. When I return from the expedition, I will be bringing back everything I’ve learned to my classroom and to my community at Farrington. My goal is to use this experience to design projects and create opportunities that bring these far-reaching places on our planet closer to my students and help them understand how our actions are connected not only to ourselves but to our community and to our planet.”

How is this experience changing due to COVID-19?

LC “Parts of the experience have simply been postponed so far. It is not yet known when travel will be deemed safe, but Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Society have developed comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety standards in consultation with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other medical experts. They are committed to the safety of guests, staff, and crew, and they assured us that they are also committed to providing the Grosvenor Teacher Fellows safe, unique, and meaningful experiences during future expeditions. Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Society continue to monitor the pandemic closely, and will schedule each fellow for an expedition aboard a Lindblad ship to some location in the world once conditions allow.”

EK “The basic tenants of the fellowship have not changed due to COVID. There is still a direct focus on learning through collaboration and hands-on experiences to grow as educators. The biggest change is that so far our work has all been virtual! Just like our students, we have been utilizing online platforms for video meetings, sharing resources, and connecting with one another. While this has been different than in past years, it is still providing us the chance to learn from one another and work together. In addition, the timeline for fellows being able to embark on the expeditions may change.”

How are you feeling about this opportunity?

EK “Gosh, I have so many feelings right now! I’m honored to have been chosen for this fellowship and to be counted among this amazing group of educators. After the delay due to COVID, I am itching to get started with our fellowship work. The National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions have such wide-reaching influence; I am most excited about the chance to connect my students with these organizations and show them what is possible with an explorer mindset. As an ELL teacher, most of my students have moved to Hawaii, a small island state, from small island nations. They are navigating a new country, a new city, a new community, and a new school, all in a new language. I hope to use what I learn as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow to help show my students that the knowledge, the skills, and the history they walk into my classroom with are not only assets but can make a direct impact on the world around us.”

LC “I feel particularly fortunate to have something so exciting to look forward to. I am delighted, humbled, and incredibly honored to be affiliated with such renowned organizations as National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions, as well as have the opportunity to work alongside change-making educators from this year’s 14th annual cohort and alumni of the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship. I also feel so incredibly lucky to have the support and enthusiasm of my students and community. I hope that I will be able to use this experience to give back to them in a way that is as important and special as they make me feel. I have already started talking to other amazing educators at my school and local educational organizations about possible collaborative projects and goals. This fellowship experience is a potential catalyst for community awareness, positive change, and an extension into even more learning opportunities that haven’t even been dreamt up yet! I am also looking forward to working with Ellie and Christina. How amazing is it that three of the 50 selected participants from all of North America are right here on Oahu?! Even though we all teach different populations and subject areas, I envision fun, collaborative projects connecting our students and communities to each other.”

About the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship

The Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship is a field-based professional development opportunity made possible by a partnership between National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. The coronavirus pandemic has put travel on hold for now, but once conditions allow, Fellows will embark in small groups on a one- to three-week voyage aboard a Lindblad Expeditions ship and travel to some of the world’s most remote and extraordinary environments, such as the high Arctic, southeast Alaska, Central America, Antarctica, or the Galápagos Islands. Throughout their journey, they will encounter wildlife and explore breathtaking landscapes while accompanied by a team of Lindblad Expeditions naturalists, including marine biologists, geologists, historians, undersea specialists, and National Geographic photographers. Each will return home with an experience they will translate into reimagined curricula that inspire their students, colleagues and communities to care more deeply about the planet and take action on global issues. [National Geographic]

Learn more about the Grosvenor Teacher Fellowship

Our featured photo of a reindeer in the Arctic was taken by Waimanalo Elementary and Intermediate School teacher Blade Shepherd-Jones. Shepherd-Jones was a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow who traveled on the National Geographic Explorer to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago midway between Norway and the North Pole, in June 2019. View his photo diary here >