Last spring, I wrote a series of posts on sabbaticals. After 14 years of teaching, I began thinking about the lack of resources that teachers have to engage in serious and innovative research. That’s when I decided to apply for the Distinguished Fulbright in Teaching Award. Much to my thrilled surprise, this past spring I received the award to go to México from January to July of 2011. Different from the longstanding Fulbright Teacher Exchange, which sends teachers to various countries throughout the world to teach their content area, the Distinguished Fulbright acknowledges that teachers are scholars.
The Distinguished Fulbright has three components. Once in their host country, educators are expected to 1) attend graduate level courses at a local university; 2) lead professional development workshops and conduct research at local schools; 3) complete a capstone project that merges their coursework and teacher research.
In order to apply, teachers must have at least five years of teaching experience, a master’s degree, and experience leading professional development for educators. I found this last requirement impressive and it was what ultimately compelled me to apply. Nowhere else have I encountered the acknowledgment that teachers are leaders in their fields who often share their expertise with colleagues in professional settings.
Over the summer, 19 teachers from the US and 17 teachers from Argentina, England, Finland, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Africa descended upon Washington, D.C. for our orientation. US teachers will be going to the countries from which our fellow global counterparts hail. Teachers from abroad will conduct their research at the University of Maryland, College Park while also creating relationships with local public schools. Like the US teachers going abroad, international teachers will also complete a capstone project.
While there are many awards within the larger Fulbright family, the Distinguished Fulbright is a newcomer. During our orientation, we were repeatedly referred to as “pioneers,” as we are only the second cohort to receive this particular grant.
As pioneers, my colleagues from both the US and internationally have amazing visions for their capstone projects. One teacher from Wisconsin, Roxie Hentz, will be going to South Africa to implement a financial literacy curriculum there. A principal from India, Indrani Ganguly, will be researching ways in which to bring peace studies back to her K-12 girls school. Several teachers from Argentina will be studying educational technology at College Park while their American counterpart will research organic farming. Fellow teacher from New York, Binh Thai, has already started his Distinguished Fulbright blog for his time in Finland.
During my time in México, I will be researching issues of gender in high schools throughout Mexico City. Part of my research will include conducting interviews of high school girls and queer youth on how they experience gender and sexuality at school and at home. As a resident researcher at PUEG (Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género), which is the gender studies department at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), I will have the opportunity to take courses through PUEG as well as attend the plethora of lectures and events related to gender at the university and throughout the city.
To prepare us for our research and capstone projects, the agency that oversees the Distinguished Fulbright, AED (Academy for Educational Development), connected us to established experts in our respective fields while we were in Washington, D.C. For those who followed my tweets in August, you’ll remember that I was able to meet with the “Godmother of Title IX” Bernice Sandler as well as Ruth Zambrana, Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies, Director of the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity, and Interim Director of the U.S. Latino Studies Initiative at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Meeting with both women completely expanded the research potential of my capstone project. While Sandler provided me with a historical grounding in gender equity in education in the US, Zambrana provided me with practical approaches for how to conduct my research and scholarly advice about where to find additional sources.
Feminist Teacher readers interested in applying for the next cohort of Distinguished Fulbright grantees should prepare their materials for the December 15, 2010 deadline. Be the next pioneer!
Finally, starting in January 2011, readers will be able to follow my experience in México right here on Feminist Teacher. iViva México!