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Millard Travel Grant Recipients Bring the World Home to Severn

This summer Middle School foreign language teacher Ms. Shaina Longway and Upper School digital arts teacher Ms. Cassandra Kapsos each took Millard Faculty Travel Grant funded trips to bring a broader perspective back to their classrooms. From language classes in Guanajuato to biological research and photography in Ecuador, both teachers discovered unexpected lessons to pass on to the Severn community and our students.

Journey to Guanajuato Mexico: Ms. Longway’s Adventure to Latin America

Guanajuato is a picturesque city nestled in the high hills of north-central Mexico. One of the original Spanish colonial cities, it is known for its Moorish architecture and rich history connected to Mexican independence. Ms. Longway’s reasons for choosing this destination were two-fold. She wanted to attend a two-week program for non-native teachers of Spanish at don Quijote Spanish School. And she wanted to fulfill a lifelong travel dream to both test and strengthen her Spanish speaking skills.

The city of Guanajuato.” width=
Ms. Longway’s love of the Spanish language started during her years working at a fish processing plant during college. Many of her co-workers were from Hidalgo, a neighboring state of Guanajuato. From her close relationships with them, she learned to eat, breathe and sleep Spanish. She truly loves the language and culture, something that shows through in her classes each day. The only missing piece of the puzzle was to actually travel to Mexico — to see if her conversation style was authentic and to find ways to grow.

Severn Middle School teacher with other teachers in Guanajuato.” width=
Ms. Shaina Longway with her travel companions in Guanajuato.
“We had such wonderful teachers at the school. They validated some of my concerns; that I do speak Spanish very well and that I speak an authentic Mexican version. But they also showed me areas in which I could improve — that can be hard to find when you get to my level of speaking. For me the most important thing was the connections that I made and how I can share those with my students. I met an incredible group of other teachers from the US and Daniel, a music student from Hidalgo who worked at the school. He was kind, engaging, and volunteered to guide us to places tourists might not normally see. We got to practice with him and have real Spanish conversations outside of the school environment. He agreed to let me interview him and bring videos back to my class.” — Ms. Shaina Longway

Biological Research at the Equator: Ms. Kapsos’s Trip to Yanayacu

Yanayacu is a research, education and creative facility in Cosanga, high in the mountains of the Ecuadorian cloud forest. The center is open year-round to host scientists, artists, and school groups from around the world. Ms. Kapsos had never considered traveling to Ecuador, but upon hearing about the Earthwatch Program: Caterpillars and Climate Change, an opportunity to learn about biological research photography, she applied for the grant and prepared for her trip.

View of the cloud forest in Ecuador.” width=
View of the cloud forest in Ecuador.
The goal of the research project was to collect, identify and photograph caterpillar specimens and to examine the relationship between the diversity of caterpillar communities and climate in that area. Ms. Kapsos learned about different collection techniques and helped the crew establish a working studio to photograph the specimens. They would spend their evenings talking about biodiversity and climate, comparing their data from naturally forested areas to that of deforested areas and more.

Ms. Kapsos and fellow researcher photographing specimens they collected.” width=
Ms. Kapsos and fellow researcher photographing specimens at Yanayacu.
“Every day we would go for a hike and do general collection, picking caterpillars off of leaves as we hiked. We also learned other techniques like plot collecting. We would find an area to examine, create a center spot, and make pie slices with string extending from that spot. That’s something I’ve brought back to Severn. My students created plots behind Teel campus and are photographing plants in each area. This is part of a long-term project with our Intro to Environmental Science class to identify those plants and eventually create a book about the biodiversity in our area.” — Ms. Cassandra Kapsos

The Millard Travel Grant

Established in 1997, the Millard Faculty Travel Grant provides professional development for the many responsibilities a faculty member might have at Severn: classroom teaching, coaching, advising extracurricular programs, and providing leadership in the school. The grants are awarded to those applicants that either contribute significantly to a faculty member’s professional growth in his/her areas of service to the school or contribute to the development of the curriculum and programs of the school. To date, the Grant has been awarded to over 35 faculty members. The School is grateful to Steve Millard '51.

We are proud and grateful to support faculty travel endeavors with the Millard Grant. As Ms. Longway stated, “The Millard family and overall tradition are truly incredible. This wasn’t just a trip or just professional development, this was a major milestone in my life.”


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