Maine Fulbright Stories offers memories and insights about international exchange experiences from Fulbright Award grantees who either came from Maine, or came to Maine, to complete their Fulbright Awards.
Fulbright: Singapore, 2018
Why did you originally decide to apply for a Fulbright?
In 2013, I’d been a teacher for about a decade and loved it, but I was terrified of doing the same thing over and over for the next 30 years. Teaching is too important a job to become complacent or jaded, so I started applying for every bit of inspiring professional development I could find. After getting my first taste of US DOE programming the next year as a Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellow, I set my sights on a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. At the same time, I developed a serious hunger for social, emotional, and linguistic research. About a third of my students speak a language other than English as their primary home tongue, and their families represent dozens of native countries. I wanted to see if I could find data reflecting a better practice for teaching them.
How did the Fulbright experience help your professional development and career?
In 2018, the two came together and I traveled to Singapore to study the social and emotional curriculum they embed in secondary schools while taking a class in linguistics for education at Nanyang Technological University. The academic experience was top-notch, and I used the time and research to create a 45-hour course for teachers back in Portland Public Schools. I also incorporated some strategies in my work with middle school students until leaving the classroom after being elected president of the Portland Education Association last year, a full-time release position.
What were your favorite experiences in Singapore?
I loved being in Singapore, and miss my daily breakfast of nasi lemak and kopi o kosong with an almost palpable yearning. I could babble indefinitely about the people, art, food, and even just the gift of time to read and write, but the biggest win, for me, is the shift in understanding in how I think about the world. The ability to live inside a different cultural context made it really clear that there are just so many options in how to think about even the smallest things we do, from “what is a breakfast food?” to government housing. The world gives us a lot of choices, if we’re open to them, and that’s a bolstering that my sense of optimism needed.
What would you like to tell Mainers about the Fulbright Program?
What would I tell Mainers about the Fulbright? Go for it. Explore every option available to you, and reach out for support from a smart, savvy network of people who are ready to help.