New London teachers globetrotting this summer

New London — Pamela Strollo’s immediate reaction to news she would receive a professional learning grant was to jump into the air with her arms outstretched.

“I’m so excited,” she announced.

Her first-grade students at Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School smiled back and joined in her excitement but were clearly confused until she explained, “I’m going to Costa Rica.”

Strollo will join two of her Winthrop colleagues, Donald Boushee and Michele Shannon, and meet with other science teachers this summer as they explore the biodiversity and ecosystems in Costa Rica as part of a professional development program.

The trio are some of the six teachers from the New London school district, eight from New London overall, whose trips in various disciplines will be funded through a partnership of the Dalio Foundation and the Fund for Teachers. The aim of the grants is to give the teachers experiences that will lead to stronger classroom instruction, said School Superintendent Manuel Rivera.

Six teachers from the district were chosen last year, including two Winthrop teachers who spent two weeks in Peru.

Each of the teachers learned Tuesday their grant applications were accepted with surprise visits to each of their classrooms by representatives from the school district and Fund for Teachers.

“We’re taking part in training specifically for science teachers and we’re going to be studying different ecosystems in Costa Rica because it has about nine different ecosystems there,” Shannon explained to her students. “We’re going to be climbing on volcanos, playing with monkeys. We’re going to go through the mangroves. It’s going to be amazing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Shannon also explained that the class and next year’s students would participate in a research project related to the trip and could get involved directly through a Facebook page dedicated to their adventures.

“We want to connect it with what you guys are doing this year and next year,” Boushee told his students. “You will be a part of it.”

There are 210 Connecticut teachers from 60 different school districts taking part in this year’s fellowship program, trips that span 48 different countries and will benefit thousands of students by exploring topics that range from language through cultural immersion to visual and performing arts.

Winthrop special education teacher Caitlyn Flynn is participating in a Think Smart Institute at the University of California at Santa Barbara “to examine neurocognitive abilities necessary to engage and meet the needs of students from various cultures and academic abilities.”

Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School teacher Alyson Parenteau will ride a bicycle along the Pacific Coast Highway, from Vancouver, Canada, to Tijuana, Mexico, to create “real-world math calculations for students and model personal growth, perseverance and grit.”

Nathan Hale Magnet Arts Magnet School teacher Jeffrey Wolfson is headed to France to observe what inspired the great impressionist and post-impressionist artists. He is expected to come back and join with students and community partners to develop an artist’s garden as a place for reflection and inspiration.

At the Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London, teacher Ellen Hill will travel to Cuba and Nicole Proncale to Guatemala.

"I am inspired by the teachers' commitment to instill in their students the thrill of learning," Dalio Foundation representative Barbara Dalio said in a statement.

g.smith@theday.com

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