Fulbright TEA Scholars Return to Home Countries, Apply Lessons Learned at U of A During Pandemic
The Northwest Arkansas community recently said goodbye to 27 teachers from 25 countries who participated in an English teacher professional development program.
The teachers were in Northwest Arkansas as part of a six-week Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) program. As the coronavirus pandemic played out in their individual countries, these teachers were able to immediately apply lessons they'd learned in the program. They easily transformed face-to-face classes to online formats, having just completed education-technology learning modules while on the University of Arkansas campus.
A teacher from Malaysia said she was grateful for the experience, especially now.
"The educational technology course taught in our Fulbright TEA program at the University of Arkansas was so timely in preparing us for such an unprecedented time," she wrote in an email to organizers. "It better equipped me as a teacher to face this challenging moment when we needed to move our classes online.
"I got to put it to use right away after returning to Malaysia. My favorite tool has to be Screencastify. Thanks to Dr. Goering from COEHP for demonstrating it. I currently use Google Slides, Screencastify, Google Classroom, and Zoom. These are my go-tos," she said.
Hosted by Spring International Language Center and the College of Education and Health Professions at the U of A, the program was sponsored by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs and implemented by International Research and Exchanges Board.
The program provides methodology instruction, cohort development, leadership training, and instructional technology seminars as part of the academic framework. The TEA participant teachers developed greater expertise in their educational roles, strengthened their teaching skills, and increased their knowledge about the United States. A highlight of this program was the field experience for the TEA teachers in area secondary schools.
In collaboration with the northwest Arkansas community, the Fulbright TEA teachers spent a week observing and co-teaching with U.S. teachers in Springdale and Fayetteville junior high and high schools. This allowed for high school and junior-high students to learn about different countries and cultures without ever leaving the classroom.
The Teaching Excellence and Achievement program has existed for over 20 years. Teachers of English, English as a foreign language, social studies, math, science, and special education are eligible and are selected after a rigorous and competitive selection process.
Participants in the Fulbright TEA program also had multiple opportunities for local cultural and entertainment experiences, including a visit to Crystal bridges, U of A and local theater and musical performances, U of A sports events, and excursions to Eureka Springs, Little Rock, Memphis, and Bentonville. They also had the opportunity to meet the mayor of Fayetteville and attend a Springdale School Board Meeting.
After completing the U of A portion of the program, the teachers attended a three-day workshop with four other cohorts of TEA teachers in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the conference was to share ideas from the program and present to teachers in TEA programs at other universities.
Gavin Nelson, who coordinates the program's local teacher training in her role with the Spring International Language Center, was asked by IREX to present at the conference. Her presentation included skills in building teacher leadership. She also shared ideas and best practices and provided feedback from Fayetteville and Springdale public schools on the field experience portion of the program.
"It was a joy and privilege to work with this remarkable group of Fulbright TEA teachers from all over the globe, and I am so proud of what they accomplished here," Nelson said. "Each of these 27 individuals left a positive impact on my life personally and professionally. I know they will be agents of change and growth in their countries."
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