Fulbright Scholars

Huntley High School teachers Anne Sharkey and Clay Henricksen are both experienced world travelers, having visited a combined 24 foreign countries.

Through a Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad trip sponsored by Northern Illinois University, they’ll soon add another country to that list and bring back valuable lesson plans to incorporate into their classes.

They are among six high school teachers and six community college teachers who were selected to participate in “The Philippines: Ethno-Religious Diversity and Human Rights in a Transitioning Democracy,” a month-long excursion organized by NIU’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

During the trip, they will explore the history and culture of the southeast Asian country and work with mentors at Philippine Normal University in Manila, the country’s national center for teacher training, on ways to bring those lessons back to their classrooms.

“We’ll be looking at ethno-religious diversity, politics, human rights issues, all sorts of topics, especially how they tie into education,” Sharkey said, noting that American high school curricula generally don’t include much on southeast Asia.

The island country is a growing force in the international scene. Its population has nearly quadrupled over the past 50 years, to more than 100 million, and the World Bank expects the country to sustain high economic growth in the coming years.

Henricksen said that having first-hand experiences can help teachers connect students with the distant cultures they’re studying in class.

He is particularly looking forward to the “homestays” portions of the trip, during which participants will live with the families of teachers at schools in Manila.

“I think for me, the homestays are really exciting because as much as this is a great trip to study both history and current events, with the homestays you really get a feel of a country, and you start to understand the people who live there,” Henricksen said. “I’m nervous for those because, culturally, I don’t know as much about the Philippines as I’d like, but that also makes it exciting.”

In addition to orientations with NIU faculty members, they are getting some after-school help with the country’s Tagalog language and customs from Megan La Ferlita, an HHS sophomore who grew up in Manila and moved to the United States last year.

“They’re good students,” La Ferlita said of her teachers. “It’s interesting to talk about my culture. It’s a big part of my life. I’m excited for them.”

She’s counseled them both on their accents and some of cultural differences they’ll encounter—from McDonald’s menus that include spaghetti to the enthusiastic Catholic religious customs practiced in many homes.

“We’re getting some of the cultural background that you wouldn’t get just from reading a list of words,” Sharkey said. “It’s cool to hear her stories.”

The trip will take place June 20-July 20, 2015. To learn more about the teachers’ travels, visit www.niu.edu/cseas/current_initiatives/Fulbright-Hays_Philippines/index.shtml and follow them on Twitter @HistorySharkey and @Henricksen_HHS.