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Art educator experiences global education with Fulbright Scholars program

Karen Kelly traveled to Morrocco to expand her teaching knowledge

Karen Kelly is no stranger to global travel. She’s taught in Haiti and traveled to China, the Middle East and throughout Europe. When her school district sent out an announcement about the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program, she knew it would be a great opportunity for her to learn more about education from a global perspective.

The experience consisted of a year-long online course and a professional development program in Washington, D.C. The participating educators travel abroad for two or three weeks to study education in an immersive environment. Kelly was one of 17 educators who visited and taught in Morocco for three weeks in April.

Kelly’s time in Morocco included lectures on Moroccan linguistics and cultural studies, history and Moroccan architecture. The educators also got a chance to take calligraphy and cooking classes, in addition to general sightseeing.

“We went to several cities including Casablanca, Fez and Rabat,” says Kelly. “After that first week of study, we were sent to our host communities to begin the second portion of our trip. I was placed in Chefchaouen, which is known for its distinctive architecture as the Blue City.”

One of Kelly’s focuses as an art educator is photography, and she enjoyed taking photos around the country. She shared her photos online with a blog of her experiences. While she was in Chefchaouen, she was paired with a host school and had the opportunity to teach throughout the week.

“I was paired with a former Fulbright recipient and participated in his English classes,” says Kelly. “He was teaching a unit on social problems and asked me to prepare a lesson that fit with the theme. I chose to talk to the students about ‘artivism’ and included discussions and unit keywords.”

The students were very curious about school life in the United States, so Kelly had the opportunity to share some about her teaching strategies and daily life for students. After two weeks, Kelly returned to Casablanca to debrief with her fellow Fulbright scholars.

“The classrooms I observed felt very sink or swim,” says Kelly. “I think in the U.S. we spend a lot of time thinking about how we can make concepts hands-on and engaging.”

Kelly shares that she hopes her experience will encourage more educators to apply to the program. While the selection process is competitive, there are many different options for educators based on their interests. Kelly has had a variety of focus areas in her ten-year career. She has taught special education, English, social studies and now art. She chose to complete her education doctorate in curriculum studies because the program could be applied broadly.

Kelly's dissertation focused on incorporating mindfulness and art therapy strategies into the classroom. The work was timely as student well-being was top of mind for many parents. She studied how breathing strategies, mindfulness and yoga help promote student wellness.

“I began the program during the pandemic, and I loved the experience,” says Kelly. “It is affordable, fully remote and the professors are phenomenal. I was able to draw from my experiences in different subject matters and apply them to all parts of the program.”

Kelly credits her personal experiences as a traveler and her educational experiences in the curriculum studies program in the College of Education as the stepping stones for landing the Fulbright opportunity.

She said, “the experience reminded me to make sure I am accommodating all my learners and creating content that pushes even my most advanced students. It also encouraged me to present a broader array of artists and artforms — especially from a non-Western perspective.”

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