Renewal is an important part of The Oaks Academy, as we strive to be a Catalyst for Renewal in our community. This also includes ensuring that our faculty and staff have the opportunity to be renewed in their profession – an effort we support with scheduled professional development sessions and even a sabbatical for teachers after their 7th year of teaching. Consistent with this theme, The Oaks is proud to congratulate 3 faculty and staff members who who have been selected by the Lilly Endowment to receive the 2022/2023 Teacher Creativity Fellowship Program (TCFP) grant.

The Teacher Creativity Fellowship is one of the Endowment’s longest standing programs. It was designed to help Indiana elementary and secondary educators renew their commitment to teaching, and continues to do so, providing 103 grants this year alone. Grants fund renewal programs designed and submitted by the educators and school leaders. Grant winners at The Oaks share their inspiration for applying to the program and their plans for renewal below. 

Brett Black

Proposal: “Waves, Canyons and Verse” – hike in the Santa Monica Mountains and learn to surf at Point Dume; carve out focused contemplative time for free verse poetry and literature

After 8 years and multiple roles in our community, Mr. Black is probably known to most now as the librarian of our Brookside campus. In this role, Mr. Black’s priorities at the school are focused on exposing students to the wealth of knowledge that may be hiding behind covers or in corners not found in the room. 

For his renewal trip, Mr. Black plans on a trip to Santa Monica, California where learning to surf, hiking, and poetry workshops are on the horizon. Mr. Black noted that his plan for the renewal program was rooted in how nature and physical activity play a role, for him, in the relaxation process. As a self-proclaimed hobbyist of writing, he feels the best way to reflect this creative hobby is to workshop ideas centered around poetry.

The plan for Mr. Black’s trip is pending scheduling that will allow his family to partake in the trip with him but is tentatively planned for the summer of 2023.

Jason Kahl

Proposal: “A Day in the Life” – visit the childhood homes of the Beatles, locations that inspired their compositions, and famous locations related to the band, inspiring creative music composition in folk rock

Mr. Kahl, the middle school band director, applied for the program as a way to gain a refreshing lens on teaching post-COVID. While quarantining in the early part of the pandemic, Mr. Kahl – along with his bandmate – used their abundance of time to try their talents at songwriting after mainly sticking to covers. The songs they started writing began a domino effect that gave Mr. Kahl a glimpse into the therapeutic nature that song writing as an exercise can possess, leading to his decision to seek avenues that offered opportunities to develop his skills in this area. 

Mr. Kahl was alerted by a friend of the TCFP and its potential to supplement the cost of adventuring towards a creative passion. But this creative journey must have a muse, and for Mr. Kahl, there is no better inspiration than The Beatles. Seeking to understand music better and finding inspiration for his compositions, the opportunity to explore the physical locations where one of the world’s most influential bands once existed is surely a dream come true.

Mr. Kahl plans to take the trip during the summer of 2023, which would allow his entire family to accompany him as he travels.

Andrew Hart

Proposal: “Roaming into My English Heritage” – walk renowned English public footpaths, engage in local conversation and encounter the character of England through the legally recognized ‘right to roam’

Our CEO Andrew Hart has been with The Oaks since 2002, guiding the growth of the school and advancing the mission of The Oaks Academy. The inspiration for Mr. Hart’s proposal comes from his desire to hone in on the relationship that the past plays in guiding the present and future on a personal level. Therefore, he plans to travel to England, his ancestral home, to reconnect with family and explore the countryside where generations of his family once lived. 

These pathways will have him roaming the Isle of Wight where famed poet Lord Alfred Tennyson lived. While there, he plant to engage in conversations with family members and new friends all across England. This quest for renewal will allow Mr. Hart to explore the “great force of history that presents itself in all that he does.”



We wish all of our educators success in finding renewal and creative inspiration on their respective journeys, and hope to share more from them when they return from the trips in the future! We also encourage our faculty and staff to begin dreaming about what renewal journey they might want to take and apply for their own Teacher Creativity Fellowship grant in the future.

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