A Jamaica Plain resident has earned a Fulbright Fellowship and will soon be leaving to teach in Colombia for five months.
Clare Franco, who has been a high school science teacher and instructional coach at Phoenix Academy Lawrence for six years, said she decided to apply for the Fulbright in Colombia because through the program she will have the opportunity to expand her “thinking on education.”
“Colombia has adopted a program, ‘Escuela Nueva,’ an alternative program that was initially created to serve rural Colombian Schools,” she said in an email to the Gazette. “The goal of Escuela Nueva is to create schools that break-down the traditional ‘teacher-centered’ learning environment through a variety of active, participatory methods. A key tenet of Escuela Nueva is the intentional connection to the community that it creates.”
Franco said she felt conflicted when she was applying for the Fulbright about temporarily leaving the school and job that she loves. She applied to the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching, which is a program designed for teachers that have been teaching for five-plus years to pursue a specific problem of practice.
“In my case, I will be studying the impact that community participation has on developing a strong school model,” she said. “I will be gone for five months. While I am gone another teacher will be covering my class. To prepare for this, the covering teacher and I have been co-teaching since the beginning of the year.”
Franco said that the work she will be doing in Colombia is tied to the Phoenix Academy.
“As part of the Fulbright Fellowship I will work with a research group at the Universidad de Atioquia to study best practices in education, specifically around building community in schools where many of the students may have experienced trauma,” she said. “While in Colombia I will have the opportunity to travel to a variety of different schools that have both traditional and alternative programming to study both the role of the student, teacher, and any structures that can support community building, student engagement, and ultimately learning outcomes.”
She said her goal is to share much of what she learns while away in Colombia with her colleagues at Phoenix Academy when she returns.
Franco said that the application process was long and involved a lot of writing, but she was able to reflect on what she has learned so far during her time as a teacher.
“I want to thank my friends and family that encouraged me to apply, specifically my partner Nick who read over my entire application, as well as close friend and roommate, Ann Wheeler,” she said. “I also want to thank my mentors, Tamara Soraluz, the principal of Phoenix Academy, and Blaine Yesselman, current director of school culture at the Conservatory Lab School in Dorchester, who encourage me to continue learning and supported me in applying for the program. Phoenix Academy is a community that works so closely together and it takes a community of support to step up when someone is going to be out. I hope that in the future other teachers from Phoenix Academy will apply for this program.”