Meredith Kamis

Wells Road Intermediate School , Granby CT

Attend the English Literacy Conference in Melbourne, Australia, then embark on a literacy tour across the country to experience indigenous culture and folklore, to evolve students' writing skills and increase their cultural literacy.

Where I've Been

  • Cairns, Australia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia

My Fellowship in Images

This is me fulfilling one of my bucket list dreams of swimming in Icebergs Bondi Beach. This pool is built into the cliffs at Bondi and is full of water that comes from waves crashing in! It was the most exhilarating swim of my life!
Here is my first ever helicopter ride! We took a tour of the Great Barrier Reef from above. This was definitely my challenging day. I was so nervous! But I did it! It was amazing to see from the air what we had been swimming in the day before.
We visited Cape Tribulation, which is the place where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. The ecosystems of the rainforest, mangroves and reef all work together to create one of the most beautiful World Heritage Sites.
My favorite unplanned experience of our trip was the cliff walk from Bronte to Bondi Beach in Sydney. We went early in the morning and enjoyed a quiet walk along some of the most beautiful cliffs I’ve ever seen. The views were incredible.
We heard so many stories on this trip and these people had a huge impact on our journey. Maz and Alan were the hosts of our B&B in Carins, and were full of wonderful stories. They were the warmest of hosts. We came as strangers and left as friends.
This is a painting we saw at the National Gallery of Victoria. Aboriginal artists use dots to paint the Dreamtime stories of how the world came to be. This is from a painting of the Rainbow Serpent, whom they believe created all things.

Igniting Personal and Professional Growth

What changed as a result of your fellowship? Why was it vital for you to pursue this particular opportunity/experience? What learning gaps (yours and/or your students’) were/will be filled as a result of your fellowship?

This fellowship reignited my love of learning about different people and what makes them who they are. Traveling to Australia pushed me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to people that were so different than I am. Everyone has had different experiences that have shaped their lives. This fellowship helped me to remember that everyone has an important story to tell, and that it is vital that we listen to each others' stories. We can learn so much from each other!

How do you see your teaching evolving after your fellowship? Your students’ learning?

One of my favorite moments of this trip was the Welcome to Country, given by an Aboriginal leader at the ALEA conference in Melbourne. He posed three questions: What is your purpose here? What brought you to this particular place? Where are you going next with what you gain here? These three questions spoke so deeply to me and helped guide the reflection of my own learning on this journey. I hope to use these three questions to help my students in reflection and ownership of their learning.

What were some unplanned or unexpected experiences or outcomes of your fellowship?

My favorite unplanned experience of our trip was the cliff walk from Bronte to Bondi Beach on our last day in Sydney. Seeing Icebergs pool was a thing I had hoped to do while we were there, but it wasn't planned in our itinerary. We got up early and caught a ride to Bronte. The 3 kilometer walk between the two places was definitely one of my favorite experiences of our whole fellowship. We ended at Bondi Beach with a chilly swim in Icebergs. I didn't know that was on my bucket list, but it was!

Impacting Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your students learn differently because of your new knowledge or skills?

My fellowship reminded me of the importance of stories and how they are shared with, and by, my students. The Aborigines' Dreamtime stories explain how the world came to be. The stories of marine biologists at the Great Barrier Reef share how important it is to take care of our planet. All people have a story to tell, and it is important for everyone to share their stories. As a literacy teacher, this made me think about how my students are shaped by the stories they read and write.

What specific events, projects or deliverables will your students experience related to your fellowship?

Our fellowship was full of characters and stories, and I plan on sharing those characters and stories with my students. The people I met along the way had things to teach me, and the experiences I had taught me things, too. In addition to this, the ALEA Conference was full of strategies to help student literacy. I learned strategies for goal setting, feedback and vocabulary acquisition that I am going to incorporate into my teaching. I also bought Australian books that I can't wait to share!

How, specifically, will your fellowship extend beyond your classroom? (e.g. families, school-at-large, afterschool groups, surrounding community, colleagues, etc.)

I cannot wait to spread the word to other educators about Fund for Teachers! My teammate and I are going to present our experience to the staff in our district in hopes to encourage them to apply, as well as share the learning we gained through our fellowship. We also are planning to run a number of Renzulli Enrichment Clusters that will share our fellowship with students across our entire building, as well as a family Travel Night to share students' travel adventures with the community.

Inspiring the Future

Why was this opportunity transformative for your teaching on a macro-level?

This fellowship was transformative for my teaching because it reminded me of the importance of self-reflection to understanding new learning. Each night I would go over what I learned and place it with knowledge I already had. I am going to share this skill of self-reflection with my students. Self-reflection is a powerful tool that can be used across a person's education, and I hope to start that practice with my third graders in a purposeful way that they can use throughout their lives.

Why do students benefit from this type of teacher learning?

Teachers who take advantage of this type of learning gain enthusiasm, perspective and unique experiences. They are more connected with their content after an experience like a Fund for Teachers fellowship. Students benefit from this type of teacher learning because they are given an opportunity to work with a teacher who is excited about learning and invested in their subject. This energy permeates a classroom and creates an environment where students are engaged with real world learning.

How would you describe to a friend or grant funder the fundamental ways in which your fellowship changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

This fellowship reignited my own passion for travel and reminded me how capable I am. I love traveling because it inevitably puts you in challenging, uncomfortable situations. Facing challenges is a part of life. Learning how to handle those uncomfortable situations prepares you better for the next thing that will challenge you. Whether it's a tricky lesson, a resistant student or a tough parent, teachers are faced with challenges daily. This fellowship reminded me that I can handle anything!