Fulbright scholars: peace and understanding through education14/04/2016
Fulbright New Zealand was established in 1948 to promote mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchanges.
This is the third year the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Programme for New Zealand Teachers has been operating, and two teachers from the South Island are the 2016 recipients.
Dr Simon McMillan, HOD science at Kaikorai Valley College in Dunedin, and Sarah Kennedy, head of special education at Nelson’s Waimea College, will spend four months honing their craft at the Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
The programme is funded by the US government. The Ministry of Education has supported the programme, together with Fulbright New Zealand, and has contributed $50,000 per year.
Each award includes return airfares, housing and a maintenance allowance to study at the School of Education at the Indiana University Bloomington. The two New Zealand teachers will be joined by 16 others from around the world on the programme.
After a week’s orientation programme in Washington DC, the teachers will enrol in advanced undergraduate or graduate level classes, design and complete an inquiry project, observe, team teach and/or conduct workshops in local schools, and engage in other educational activities.
The design and completion of an inquiry project called a ‘capstone’ is an important element of the Fulbright Award. Teachers plan their subject of inquiry well in advance of their trip.
Fulbright scholars also take part in a web-based collaborative project with other teachers on the programme. In this way, they can share ideas and best practice.
SARAH KENNEDY: NO TWO DAYS ARE THE SAME
Special education teacher Sarah Kennedy will use the opportunity to study how schools can best support their students as they adjust to life after finishing their secondary education.
Her capstone project will investigate leadership qualities, and the effect of these on students.
“My proposal is about what specific aspects of leadership within a college environment result in the best outcomes for students and their whānau when transitioning to life after school,” she says.
“As part of the programme I will be attending relevant lectures at the university, visiting schools, teaching some classes and sharing experiences and learning from other special education professionals.”
Sarah is also looking forward to exploring the city of Bloomington, Indiana.
“It’s a vibrant town of about 70,000 people, and I am looking forward to getting out into their parks and lakes and sampling the cultural aspects in the town – including a choice of four Tibetan restaurants!
“I will also be there for the November Presidential election so experiencing the election culture close up will be extremely interesting,” she says.
When it comes to teaching, Sarah says she wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. She has been working in special education since 1984, when she taught at a large international school in Singapore. Since then, no two days have been the same, she says.
“Memorable moments happen daily – for example, helping friends fulfil their dream of flatting together; developing an artistic talent into a screen-printing micro-business for a young man living with Down Syndrome and Autism; teaching non-verbal students to use iPad technology to communicate, and helping to change the culture of a school over 27 years to one which is inclusive, accommodating and enthusiastic towards our students every day.
“I love working with my students and their whānau. Every student I have worked with has taught me something that has shaped my professional knowledge base. No two days are the same and the teaching team I am part of is extraordinary.”
SIMON MCMILLAN: SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH SCIENCE
Dr Simon McMillan has worked as HOD science at Kaikorai Valley College since 2008.
Although he has taught general science and chemistry, a special focus has been the incorporation of Education for Sustainability in senior science courses.
“As an Enviroschool, our school has a particular focus on community outreach,” he says.
This has involved students helping with catchment management, water quality monitoring and riparian margin planting. In 2004, Simon’s Royal Society Teaching Fellowship culminated in the creation of a website with maps, educational resources and real-time monitoring of the Kaikorai Stream.
Simon is currently heading a project that involves four local primary school teachers and their classes. Together, they are developing an ‘urban farm’ on the grounds of Kaikorai Valley College, using an inquiry learning model.
“The students get to develop their plan for the project, work collaboratively with other schools and then, if their plan shows a critical thinking approach, they get to build the activity for real on site! What will they come up with? We are in full swing with this project at the moment,” he says.
The Fulbright Award offers up the chance to learn from experts in his field, as well as from teachers from all over the world.
“I’m looking forward to meeting teachers from other countries and getting the chance to talk about their education systems – what is working well and not working so well?”
Simon’s capstone project will explore metacognition in teaching and learning.
“The purpose of my project is to answer two questions: which metacognitive strategies do students find best to use to develop deeper learning – particularly, low achievers? And which strategies could teachers use to ensure explicit teaching and evaluation of metacognition in their own teaching?
“These questions arise from my research into the status of metacognition in schools and universities and the current ways we measure students’ and schools’ success in achievement.”
Simon says his best moments in teaching are those spent with his students, both inside and outside the classroom.
“I emphasise the strength of a crosscurricular, local, place-based learning approach, and I particularly like linking students to the world around them – how to describe it, explain it, and understand their place in it.”
Fellow teachers are also very important to him.
“I greatly enjoy the banter and collaborative support they bring to my working day,” he says.
“Teachers are very giving people and in our school we have an ethos of total support and sharing in whatever we do. I’m sure that without my colleagues’ support over the years, I wouldn’t have gained an award such as the Fulbright.”
FULBRIGHT DISTINGUISHED AWARDS IN TEACHING PROGRAMME FOR NEW ZEALAND TEACHERS
This award is offered to highly accomplished New Zealand teachers in primary or secondary schools to participate in an intensive professional development programme in the United States. Two awards are granted each year for this four month programme.
To be eligible, you must:
- hold a bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification
- be a primary or secondary school teacher in a full-time teaching position (in any subject), with at least five years of full-time teaching experience; or
- hold one of the following positions at primary or secondary level – library media specialist, guidance counsellor, special education coordinator, administrator, and be working with students at least 50 per cent of your time
- demonstrate experience conducting professional development activities
- demonstrate accomplishment in teaching or have previously received teaching awards or exemplary evaluations
- meet the citizenship requirements for this award.
- Preference for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Programme will be given to teachers serving in public schools in underserved communities.
Closing date: 1 November annually.
For more information visit www.fulbright.org.nz.
This story was is republished courtesy of New Zealand Education Gazette