Jacqueline Brown-Williams receives international grant

Published 10:28 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mrs. Brown-Williams with students in Italy, April 2015.

Mrs. Brown-Williams with students in Italy, April 2015.

Theater teacher to use grant to encourage study abroad opportunities, international studies, educational exchanges

Jacqueline Brown-Williams, theater arts teacher at Polk County High School, has received a $1,000 grant from the Institute of International Education and American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation.

Brown-Williams, who has been teaching since 1972, is one of 50 teachers in 27 states and the District of Columbia who has been selected for this grant. She also joins 1,000 teachers and administrators who will expose their students to study abroad programs in the five-year Generation Study Abroad initiative.

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Three other teachers were awarded this same grant in North Carolina. The grant will allow Brown-Williams to help students establish connections with Polish students via email or Skype in the hopes of increasing study abroad opportunities.

“It goes towards any kind of special things we need for students, supplies or special programs,” Brown-Williams said, “and what I’m going to be doing is help set up Skype, even emailing or Facebook accounts so that Polish students can better their English and students can learn about another country.”

Brown-Williams will use the enrichment grant to share practices for globalizing the classroom with her colleagues as well as create new exchange programs with K-12 schools abroad.

William L. Gertz is the president and CEO of the AIFS Foundation, and said the organization is proud to enable teachers and students to learn more about the world through international experiences.

“Our success as a society depends upon deepening our knowledge of other cultures and languages,” Gertz said. “This can only be achieved by learning at the source.”

Partially funded by the secretary of state, Brown-Williams will ensure students have cameras, flash drives and scan discs for them to take photos and create galleries of pictures to send to their foreign student partners. Brown-Williams said any student who wishes to be a part of the program may do so.

She will also set up Skype times and interactive classroom activities for students and their international classmates. The webcam streaming service charges for international calls either through Skype credit or monthly subscriptions.

“This is based on the way the funding is set up, but we’re encouraging Americans to study abroad,” Brown-Williams said. “So, one of the things I’m doing is to find a liaison with Polish students during my time with them this summer through the Kosciuszko Foundation, which teaches English in Poland.”

This summer will be her eighth with the foundation, and Brown-Williams said the mission of the foundation is to teach the English language and American culture to those living in Poland. College students and teachers take part in this cross-continental exchange.

Learning a second language is something Brown-Williams said is imperative for students to learn. Brown-Williams taught global studies for five years.

“Take for example, Spanish,” Brown-Williams said. “You can learn it all day, but until you go to a Spanish-speaking country, how can you implement it?”

At the high school, Brown-Williams is working with the high school’s Chinese teacher, Lou Qiayong Gault, on the Chinese program’s curriculum. This includes a short play Gault’s Chinese 4 students had to perform for their class under the direction of Brown-Williams this semester entitled “The Butterfly Lovers.”

“It helps them through the arts in theater and to have exchanges with students in China,” Brown-Williams explained. “It will prepare their spoken Chinese and find exchange places in China. These students would be doing cross-country exchanges to the point where you can invite them or get scholarships for American students to go to Eastern Europe, China or Asia.”

This facet of education will help Brown-Williams’ students “look beyond Polk County” when they spend time with their international student partners. Increasing the chances of having American and international students do cross-country exchanges is a goal for Brown-Williams.

“We are a global society and, whether you believe it or not, we’re all part of this big global community,” Brown-Williams said. “This will help students determine their parts in the greater good of our world and see beyond their mindsets. It will also make everyone feel as if they aren’t separated by thousands of miles.”