Christine Milakovic remembers gazing at the painting on her grandmother’s wall, admiring the Mostar bridge and listening to stories about her time in Bosnia.
My whole childhood, every time I went to my grandmother’s house, I looked at this painting, Milakovic said. I always thought I might want to go there and paint my own copy someday.
Ben Shappell sometimes struggles to connect with his young chemistry students as he explains the details of water filtration – a topic even he will admit isn’t the most riveting.
I want to show them something they can relate to. Something that would really get them going from the beginning of the year, Shappell said. Something to get them hooked and show them that chemistry really is something that matters.
This summer, both will have a chance.
Milakovic and Shappell were selected as two of the 100 Hoosier educators to receive a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship.
This year’s winners were selected from a pool of 450 applicants from across the state, Lilly Endowment officials said.
The fellowship, which includes a $10,000 award, is designed to provide time, financial support and encouragement for educators to switch roles and be learners instead of teachers.
Teachers get to become learners again as they explore their own curiosities and dreams, spend time in other parts of the world, pursue personal passions and just get away,’ said Sara B. Cobb, vice president for education at the Endowment. We regularly hear that these experiences have helped many Indiana educators regain their enthusiasm for their profession.
This is the 27th year for the fellowship program, which is funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.
‘Such an honor’
Milakovic teaches English as a second language to about 45 adult students at Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Anthis Career Center.
She applied for the fellowship last year but received a small envelope thanking her for applying and explaining that she had not received the grant.
So when a much larger envelope came in the mail this year, Milakovic said she was thrilled.
I just stood there with my mouth hanging open and when I finally opened it up and the first word was congratulations’ I started jumping up and down, she said. It’s such an honor and I’m just thrilled to have this opportunity.
Milakovic will depart June 14 to begin her studies, titled Reflections – Painting and Traveling in Italy and the Balkans.
She plans to enroll in a painting class that will allow her to tour Umbria, about two hours southeast of Florence, and small hill towns while painting the scenery along the way.
She also plans to visit Rome and then retrace her grandmother Joyce Milakovic’s steps in Bosnia and Croatia.
Christine Milakovic lived in Italy in the 1990s, but said she didn’t fully appreciate the art aspects of the country.
I’m familiar with a lot of the hill towns, but this trip I’m going there for the art, to practice the technique, she said.
Although she hopes the trip will be an enriching experience to help her connect with her past, Milakovic is already planning ways to use her trip to connect with her students.
Most of them are living in this country and learning the language and culture for the first time, she said.
Milakovic’s adult students come from all over the world – some from Japan and Burma, others from Thailand and the Philippines and more from Syria, Tunisia, Congo, Columbia and Mexico.
To help them stay connected, Milakovic will ask students to write about their home country as though they were telling their stories to their grandchildren – much the way she hopes to reconnect with her grandmother through painting.
I think there’s a real connection to be made with my students, she said.
‘Easier to connect’
That connection is exactly what Leo Junior-Senior High School teacher Shappell hopes to make with his students.
The East Allen County Schools teacher plans to use his Lilly Endowment fellowship for a project titled What’s in Our Water and From Where Does it Come?
Everybody drinks water, but I think if I can tell (students) about my own first-hand experiences, it will be that much easier to connect with them, Shappell said.
With the company of his 9-year-old son Luke, Shappell plans to travel to Washington, Hawaii, California, Florida and Ontario to study various water purification techniques.
Luke loves science. There’s an after-school program at Cedarville Elementary School where kids can stay once a week and do experiments and study scientific processes and he loves that. I think he’s got the science mind, Shappell said.
They will start in Seattle at the Cedar Treatment Facility, which uses rainwater off the mountains to provide water for residents.
From there, they’ll fly to Hawaii to study a different system.
That’s a totally different system because they are surrounded by water, but none they can drink. So they have only a very limited supply, Shappell explained.
They’ll visit Los Angeles, the home of a new $60 million water treatment facility, before heading to Ontario with the rest of the family.
Shappell also plans to visit filtration systems in Indiana, including Fort Wayne’s Water Pollution Control Plant, Brownsburg and Lafayette.
Shappell said he and his son will also enjoy some father-son experiences along the way, including a visit to the tar pits in Los Angeles and taking in a baseball game or two.