Tag: Fulbright

James Cohen wins Fulbright

James Cohen

James Cohen

James Cohen will spend the summer of 2019 in Uruguay as a Fulbright Scholar.

The associate professor of ESL/Bilingual Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction will work alongside Aldo Rodriguez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. Rodriguez is also the national director of Second Language Policy for the Uruguay National Board of Education.

“Essentially,” Cohen said, “I will be going around the country, from region to region, working with high school English teachers, focusing on a combination of English as a Foreign Language pedagogy and cultural sensitivity issues.”

Cohen hopes to make these educators “more culturally responsive in their teaching strategies and teaching approaches.”

“I want to provide a venue in which they can understand the hierarchical nature of these systems of injustice that exist in every country, including theirs,” he said. “I also want to provide a venue in which they are aware of their perspectives of the students – in other words, are they viewing their students from a deficit model or from a strength model? We are learning that the research is very, very clear on this.”

His reason is equally clear.

“No child should be treated as ‘the other,’ and I’ve seen it many times where teachers and school systems treat kids as ‘the other.’ It’s unethical, it’s immoral and it’s wrong, and a lot of times, teachers aren’t always aware that they’re doing this. It’s all about raising awareness,” said Cohen, who joined NIU in 2010.

“My experience here in the United States is that when teachers gain the awareness of how they’re interacting with their students, and how they’re viewing their students, it’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.

Aldo Rodriguez

Aldo Rodriguez

“The teachers are no longer frustrated with their students; the students are no longer upset about going to class; and the students end up working harder for the teacher because the teacher is respecting them. I’m passionate about this because I know it makes a difference in kids’ lives.”

Before Cohen and his family embark for South America, he plans frequent and extensive conversations with Rodriguez to discuss the specifics of the implementation of the proposed project.

In preparation for this time in Uruguay, Cohen is taking an advanced-level Spanish course this semester during his sabbatical because he does not know what level of English proficiency the teachers will have. He also hopes that, by spending three months in Uruguay, he and his daughter will continue to improve their Spanish.

Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program is administered by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Fulbright awards approximately 8,000 grants each year to roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars and 900 visiting scholars, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals.

Cohen’s first application for a Fulbright grant, one he submitted four years ago in hopes of visiting Paraguay, the country located directly north of Uruguay, received “alternate status” and never came to fruition.

However, this year’s attempt seemed predestined to succeed.

fulbrightDuring a recent academic conference, while he awaited word on his proposal, Cohen bumped into a close friend who teaches at Western Illinois University. She unexpectedly mentioned that she had applied for – and had received – a Fulbright grant.

The good news was enough to excite Cohen, but the “rest of the story” sent him over the top: His friend was going to Uruguay. “I’m like, ‘This is awesome!’ ” he said. “She’s there now. She just went down there in January, and she’ll be there for the whole semester. I didn’t even know that she was applying.”

Cohen got his good news while in Washington, D.C. for the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Institute, sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities and held from Jan. 19 through Jan. 23.

“I was listening to a presentation and then, all of a sudden, I get this email, and it says, ‘Congratulations! You have won!’ ” he said. “Needless to say, I have no idea what that presenter said. From that moment on, I was no longer listening.”

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Double-alumna wins Fulbright

Barbara Abromitis

Barbara Abromitis

Barbara Abromitis wanted to become a teacher.

That goal brought her to the NIU College in Education, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 1983.

Life had other plans, though.

“When my kids were young, I started doing grant-writing because I could do that from home,” Abromitis says.

She had found her unexpected niche, and two decades later, became director of grants at the College of DuPage.

“I work closely with faculty to develop program ideas, write proposals, find funding for them and then oversee the management of those projects and troubleshoot,” she says. “I work with pretty much every department of the college, and I know a little about a lot of things. It’s interesting for me to see what they all do.”

Now the two-time NIU College of Education alumna is the thrilled recipient of a Fulbright grant.

Abromitis is among six Americans chosen to attend a two-week seminar in Moscow for community college administrators. Six counterparts from Russia also will participate.

Fulbright’s International Education Administrators (IEA) seminars help U.S. international education professionals and senior higher education officials create empowering connections with the societal, cultural and higher education systems of other countries.

Grantees can learn about the host country’s education system as well as establish networks of U.S. and international colleagues over the course of an intensive two week grant duration. They return with enhanced ability to serve and encourage international students and prospective study-abroad students.

globe“My understanding is that it’s basically an opportunity to share how we develop our programs, how we address issues such as student completion, how we help people with their career paths,” she says. “We will share what we do and learn from each other. The most interesting part of visiting other parts of the world is that people have such different perspectives.”

Other activities of the seminar, scheduled from March 31 through April 14, are field trips to Russian universities and technical colleges.

She wants to return with ideas that will benefit students and faculty at the College of DuPage.

“I’m very poised to take what I learn to the faculty – ‘Can we do this?’ What makes sense for us?’ Not everything is going to translate perfectly,” she says. “I’m hoping to make different connections and see what applies to us here.”

Those conversations will allow her to continue putting to good use her 1999 Ed.D. in Reading Education with a cognate in Educational Psychology and extensive coursework in Curriculum and Supervision.

“My doctoral program at NIU was wonderful. Even though I’m not working in the field of literacy right now, I feel like I use those skills all the time,” Abromitis says.

“I’m looking at statistics, working to analyze what’s happening in the situation, knowing theories about how people learn and the best way to teach,” she adds. “Even in just trying to build a case for why a funder should support a program, I’m using those things very often. One of our biggest grants is an Adult Education/Family Literacy Grant, and I enjoy working closely with those program people and looking for additional funding for literacy.”

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Jim Ressler to examine student-teaching model in New Zealand

Jim Ressler

Jim Ressler

Could an innovative model of teacher education in New Zealand translate to the United States?

NIU’s Jim Ressler is soon to find out.

Ressler, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will spend six weeks during the spring 2017 semester at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

He will evaluate “a novel approach to teacher education” offered to the country’s universities by the Ministry of Education. Twelve applied; seven – including Victoria – were accepted.

“The student-teacher is immersed in the school site for an entire year – from February to December,” Ressler says. “The first half of the experience is two or three days each week in the schools, and the other days are occupied with university coursework informing their placement. In some cases, the school sites host university courses.”

Even more interesting, he adds, is that “the Ministry of Education has supplemented this national shift with stipends for mentor-teachers in the schools. In the United States, that would be the equivalent of paying cooperating teachers to host our student teachers.”

Ressler is working with Barrie Gordon, a professor who visited KNPE as a Fulbright Scholar in 2013-14.

Barrie Gordon

Barrie Gordon

“Barrie and I have very strong overlap in our research interests, and since his Fulbright, I visited him in New Zealand in early 2015 to scope out the possibility of proposing this sabbatical,” he says. “I initiated some relationships with local schools and kept in touch, and Barrie assured me we could get access to the sites we visited to be able to investigate both the policy and the practice of what it looks like.”

In addition to a series of school visits, Ressler will interview mentor-teachers – he’s already conducting some interviews via Skype – as well as with key personnel in the Ministry of Education, school administrators and university leaders.

He hopes to apply his findings to NIU, where many of his experiences “have been keyed by strong school-university partnerships, notably with the schools in which our programs hold practicums.”

As a liaison with DeKalb Community School District 428 elementary and middle schools, he has become more adept with the changing needs of students, teachers and schools across all content areas in the district. In some cases, the needs can be met with strengths of the university and teacher preparation program.

“We’re making sure those school-university ties are strong,” he says, “meeting outcomes that are most important to the school and to the university, such as higher expectations for student achievement in and out of the classroom, developing rigorous curricula, superior teacher preparation practices, professional learning and joint research.”

nz--flagNew Zealand has “similar aims, but much different routes to get there,” he adds.

“What’s impressive to me, being well aware that New Zealand is a small country, is how much of an imprint the Ministry of Education holds on a national level for these university program offerings,” Ressler says.

“Coming out with initial teacher licensure at the graduate level is, in their eyes, raising the bar for what an incoming teacher has for content knowledge,” he adds. “Those types of candidates are coveted, whereas in our current climate in Illinois and the United States with public education, those candidates might be priced out of a job.”