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Ambassador Teacher Wins Grant: Prince William County Community Foundation Recognizes Teacher’s Vision

When Ryan Simms arrived in the U.S. from Jamaica to begin his role as an Ambassador Teacher, his initial excitement transformed into concern with the realization that both he and his students still faced significant challenges caused by the pandemic. So he decided to do something about it.

Ryan applied for a community micro-grant by writing an essay about the struggles of post-pandemic learning and how he would use the grant money to purchase additional instructional materials. In the essay, Ryan had a clear goal in mind: to increase hands-on experiences, problem-solving, and collaboration within the classroom.

The Prince William County Community Foundation (PWCCF) recently recognized Ryan’s efforts, awarding him a 2023 Educator Micro-Grant. Ryan has decided to use the grant money to invest in STEM kits for the upcoming school year to help achieve his established goals in the classroom. Ryan has not yet decided what type of STEM kits he will purchase. 

“Initially, when I received the news that I won the grant, I was shocked,” Ryan said. “After some reflection, I realized that my essay came from the heart, and I shouldn’t be shocked that they [PWCCF] appreciated that. I’m extremely grateful to be given this award.”

Ryan teaches third grade at Fannie W. Fitzgerald Elementary School in Prince William County as a cultural exchange teacher with Participate Learning. George Wright, his principal, calls Ryan “a beacon of inspiration in the classroom.” 

“Ryan believes in nurturing excellence within every child,” Wright said. “He values each student as a vital team member in their educational journey. With unwavering ambition, he empowers young minds to reach their full potential. Keep shining, Ryan.”

While Ryan had a great first year, the transition to a new country was made more challenging by the effects of the post-pandemic era in the classrooms. Ryan realized the impact the pandemic had on his well-being and his students and remained committed to finding ways to support them. This became a top concern for him as his students showed a decline in motivation and excitement for learning. 

“I often looked at the challenges my students faced and then ignored my challenges as an educator,” Ryan said.

Pursuing this grant led Ryan to embark on an introspective journey, where he has come to realize the importance of slowing down and prioritizing self-care. By taking care of himself, Ryan aims to be the best version of himself for his students.

Juggling and adapting to a new culture and school system has been challenging, but Ryan has navigated this change effectively. Reflecting on his first year of teaching in the United States, he is proud of how he adapted and feels even more confident and equipped for the upcoming school year.

Ryan also recognizes his students’ success, as they performed “extremely well” on state tests. He expressed his gratitude for the support and encouragement he has received from Participate Learning and the staff at his school during this transition. 

“Sometimes change can be scary, but when you adapt and persevere, eventually you’ll see the change was for your good,” he said. “I often tell my kids, ‘Mr. Ryan left his country and his family to come to the United States.’ At first, it seemed scary, but while taking this journey, I realized I’m braver than I thought.”

Ryan’s story exemplifies the dedication and resilience of educators worldwide, especially during the challenging post-pandemic era. With the 2023 Educator Micro-Grant fueling his passion, Ryan is ready to make an even more significant impact in his classroom and community. 

About Participate Learning

Founded in 1987, Participate Learning has embraced the mission of uniting the world through global learning. With a commitment to supporting partner schools and Ambassadors Teachers, the company strives to provide services that empower educators and students.

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