Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program
Albany, New York
I was teaching in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. There’s a lot of generational poverty, and we had a terrible drug problem. After researching communities that had addressed similar issues, I found that Belfast, Northern Ireland, had been struggling with the aftermath of sectarian strife known as “The Troubles.” I applied to the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research Program to go to Belfast and see what they had done to overcome this.
I looked at full-service extended schools and community use of schools. In most places, it makes sense for the school to be the hub of the community. It tends to be the largest building. People already pay taxes into it and should use it.
They have a toolkit in Northern Ireland about how to make schools community hubs, which I adapted. They did a beautiful job, including longitudinal studies and talking to students, parents, and teachers, and other stakeholders.
It’s because of the people I met on the program that I’m able to make my classroom a global classroom. I now collaborate with teachers all over the world. Our students have done video chats with another school in Morocco, and they still remain friends two years later. Students have learned about disability rights through an online conversation with Jason Olsen, an advocate for disability rights, social justice, and inclusion.
As a result of this process, there’s been a huge rise in students who’ve chosen to study abroad and volunteer for Peace Corps. Students are traveling more in general, choosing to extend their studies, and giving back to their communities. There’s been a revitalization, and personally I credit Fulbright. Exchange programs have made the world a small place in the best possible way.