Clinton ESL teacher Kate Fearon wins Fulbright grant

Kate Fearon

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Clinton Elementary School ESL teacher Kate Fearon won a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program grant; she is one of only 76 teachers across the country who will be participating in the program that aims to help teachers bring an international perspective into their classrooms. A 15-year veteran of the South Orange-Maplewood School District who has spent the last 14 years at Clinton, Fearon will be spending the next school year taking an online course about incorporating global teaching into her lesson plans before heading off to another country to observe international classrooms.

“The goal is to prepare teachers to bring a global perspective to the classroom,” Fearon said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Aug. 22. “Because we have a lot of children in our schools coming from other countries, it seemed like a great opportunity to build on that.”

There are approximately 50 ESL students at Clinton, split between Fearon and two other teachers. That’s one of the reasons Fearon applied for the grant, which she said involved writing a lot of essays about her teaching background and how Clinton would benefit from the program.

“It was kind of like applying to college,” she joked. “The way I see it, it’s bringing this new focus to the district and the community. We can leverage a school with ESL kids and highlight that.”

The grant will allow Fearon to see what education is like in other countries, though she doesn’t yet know what country she will visit. It will be a two- to three-week trip in the spring to any one of the world’s 197 countries in various locales from Asia to Africa to Latin America.

“We’ll be working with educators from those countries and seeing how they work to build relationships with their students,” Fearon said. “Every country is different in how they approach education so it will be interesting to see other classrooms.”

SOMSD supervisor of world languages and ESL Ramon Robles-Fernandez, who worked with Fearon at Clinton before he became head of the department, wrote Fearon a recommendation letter as part of her application.

“She’s a very dedicated teacher and she’s always advocated for ESL students and willing to take the next step,” Robles-Fernandez said in a phone interview with the News-Record on Aug. 23. “She has the opportunity to travel, which is something that’s important to me. That can help the Clinton students tremendously.”

Like Fearon, Robles-Fernandez highlighted the advantages of Fearon’s seeing how classrooms in other countries can help her students in New Jersey.

“At Clinton we have students from many countries,” he said. “Every system is different. She can provide her expertise to other people. It’s important to learn other styles of teaching and that’s what she’ll do. And she’ll be sharing her own, which is critical.”

Fearon is excited to try something new as the end of the summer nears and Clinton welcomes students back for the first day of school.

“Every year is a chance to try something new,” she said. “We all could use some change every once in a while, so that’s exciting to start.”