By Sammy Bredar
Clay Middle School teacher Brian McGuckin is already seeing the benefits of his July visit to Iceland in his classroom.
The Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship program, part of the Lilly Endowment, funded the three-week trip, during which McGuckin lived out of a bus and photographed the island’s sweeping landscapes.
“From waterfalls, to geysers, to sea stacks, to fissures, to volcanoes, to sheep randomly walking in the middle of the roads around the country, my camera and I were overwhelmed by the beauty of Iceland,” McGuckin said. “Iceland is a photographer’s playground and I came back with so many photos and stories to go with them.”
The trip has sparked discussion and interest with students in his social studies classes.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that kids remember the stories I share better than they remember what they read,” McGuckin said. “My classroom walls are filled with photos from most of the 25 countries I’ve visited, all of which are part of the curriculum I teach. It excites me to share with my students and has sparked a desire in many of them to experience the world for themselves.”
For Judith Cebula, director of communications for the Lilly Endowment, that’s a big part of what the scholarship program is all about. The scholarship program began issuing grants to teachers in 1987.
“The Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program promotes lifelong learning for educators by enabling them to pursue their dreams and passions, explore new areas of interest, expand existing talents and develop new ones,” said Cebula. “We hope that these experiences will strengthen their commitment to teaching and thus benefit both their students and their schools.”
McGuckin, a Carmel resident, decided to apply for the program after a co-worker recommended it. He received his first grant in 2013 and used it for a photography trip to Europe.
“I photographed a lot of the ruins and the landscape and interviewed locals about how those things affected their lives and ultimately their local economy,” McGuckin said.
When he travels, McGuckin prefers to immerse himself in the local culture.
“Although cozy hotels and fancy resorts sound nice, I prefer to eat in authentic restaurants and get to know what life is like for the people who live there,” he said. “These experiences, along with my camera, give me great stories and beautiful images.”
McGuckin said the scholarships were transformative for her.
“Experiencing other cultures shapes who you are and who you become. This society has not only changed me, but also the students and my family,” he said. “It has rejuvenated me both times, making me excited to share my experiences with my students and anyone who is willing to listen.”
McGuckin is sharing photos and videos from his trip to Iceland on his website, brianmcguckin.com.
How to apply
Clay Middle School social studies teacher Brian McGuckin is a two-time recipient of a grant through the Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program. He has used the funds to travel overseas to focus on photography.
He encourages other Indiana teachers to apply for the scholarship program.
“I am amazed at the number of teachers who do not take advantage of this great opportunity,” he said. “Everyone has dreams, and whether it involves travel or not, this society does a wonderful job of supporting Indiana’s teachers.”
Most full-time education professionals are eligible to apply for the scholarship program. Visit lillyendowment.org/for-grantseekers/renewal-programs/teacher-creativity to learn more about the program and its eligibility requirements.
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