Two West Orange School District educators named Fulbright Scholars

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange High School English teacher Christina Biddle and Edison Middle School English teacher Maheen Ahmad have been named Fulbright Scholars for 2022-23.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and is supported by the people of the United States and partner countries around the world. The Fulbright Program is funded through an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also provide direct and indirect support to the program. For over 75 years, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.”

Biddle, who received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Research, has taught in the high school English department for the past 10 years. Prior to coming to West Orange, she taught English, humanities and documentary filmmaking for several years in New York City. 

“I will be living in Helsinki, Finland, for six months, conducting an inquiry project on Finland’s unique approach to phenomenon-based learning and how it might lead to a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of life, as well as feelings of joy, purpose, agency and hope,” Biddle said of her Fulbright project. “I also plan to investigate how phenomenon-based learning might engage students in reading great literature, producing authentic writing and designing meaningful projects which may have a community and global impact. I will be assigned to an adviser at the University of Helsinki and will be traveling to schools throughout the country to observe and speak with students and teachers. I look forward to sharing my findings with the community upon my return.”

In particular, Biddle hopes to understand how phenomenon-based learning might be used to provide purpose and joy to students, and how it might be used to transform the 12th-grade learning experience into an even more invigorating one — a sort of bridge experience to college. 

Ahmad, who received the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program Award, has taught at EMS since graduating from college in 2013. 

“I’m enormously grateful for all the support and encouragement I’ve received over the years,” Ahmad said.

Over the past several years, Ahmad pursued a master’s degree in instructional technology and media at Teachers College, Columbia University; had the opportunity to present many workshops in the district; helped EMS receive the School to Watch and Future Ready awards; and is a doctoral candidate in teacher education at Montclair State University.

“I’m ecstatic about the opportunity to join the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program,” Ahmad said, “and learning the education systems of different countries has always been a dream of mine.” 

In addition to conferences and training, Ahmad will spend two weeks in a select country learning about their education systems, and spending two weeks in a select country learning about their education systems. Participating countries include Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Senegal and South Korea.

“This school district has been and continues to be a fantastic district in which to grow and develop,” Ahmad said. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without West Orange, and I’m grateful beyond words for that.”

Photos Courtesy of WOSD