The Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching

Virgina clouds
Beautiful cloud cover in Virginia

Many moons ago I heard about a program from a friend.  She had been involved in an exchange program that allowed her to visit a country, explore educational topics and reignite her passions.  This friend must know me pretty well by now, because as soon as she gave me this link , I knew I had to at least attempt a proposal.

The process started back in September of 2014.  I was looking for opportunities to stretch myself personally and professionally.  To be honest, as an educator, I kind of felt like I was on autopilot.  I wanted to find that “something” to allow me to find my teaching chops again, but also to find a way to feed my hunger for learning new things, immersing myself in something unfamiliar, and re-evaluating what it actually means to be an educator.  What teacher stops exploring and investigating? I’ve always learned from and valued unique encounters with different cultures and wanted to find a way to have another experience that would eventually allow me to give back to my school, community, and of course other educators.  All I had to do was think of a proposal.  I’ve always had tons of ideas floating around in my head, but never really had a chance to think about them, study them and pursue them.  I suddenly realized that I had an opportunity to pursue a project that I was passionate about:  Art and Yoga.

For the last 10 years I have been teaching art in a juvenile detention center, and in the last 4 years I had developed an art/yoga curriculum.  I wanted to expand that curriculum.  I wanted to do something more with it.  I wanted a chance to see if I could turn this 8-week pilot program into something else– a community program, a curriculum guide, or at least a chance to build, develop and think about what I’ve already been doing.  The Fulbright, if I got it, would allow me to do that, and so much more.

The process to apply was a long one.  After writing and thinking and writing and thinking, I finally sent off my application only one or 2 days before the November due date.  I honestly didn’t know what kind of a chance I would have.  I knew there were brilliant, passionate, innovative teachers all over the US.  How could I compete with their own wonderful ideas and project proposals?

The waiting game was challenging.  Some days I was able to put the whole idea of it in the back of my mind, while other days I checked my e-mail frequently..nay…nervously, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, or to see if it landed in my junk folder.

December- I had passed the initial stage.  They accepted my application.
February – Still waiting, had hearing nothing, I was extremely nervous, yet still hopeful.  No news was good news, but wasn’t I supposed to know something by now?
March – I made another cut! How about a phone interview?
April – Short interview– more wait time.
Mid-April – the 17th to be exact– I GOT IT!  It was overwhelming, and I hadn’t realized how much I really wanted to have the opportunity.  I felt elated, excited, and overwhelmed with emotion. I was going to India to study, collaborate, and create art and yoga practices with other educators for under-served populations.

Fast forward to the end of August and I’ve been making a lot of preparations for my trip:  appointments, workshops, visa requirements, reading a lot of books and articles.  Yet, I still feel the same excitement, only coupled with humility in hopes that I can be open to whatever awaits me over there.  In January I will be headed to Chennai, India to work with a non-profit.  I know that the time there will come with lots of challenges, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to gain insight, exchange knowledge, and be in a setting of cross-cultural collaboration. The 4 months spent there will go fast, and it will be tough to gather all what I hope to, but I know that this is more than just a chance to explore, it’s also a chance forge new relationships and new possibilities.

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