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Wow, what a year for the English Language Fellow Program, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a variety of events around the world! Throughout the year, current Fellows and alumni sported their 50th T-shirts, in and out of classrooms, at national and regional conferences, and in D.C. on the National Mall.

Fellows with their brand new 50th anniversary swag

To mark the beginning of the anniversary year, this 50th Anniversary page was added to the program website with an interactive timeline, Then and Now, showing the growth of the program since its creation in 1969.

The official kick-off took place in Atlanta, Georgia, at the TESOL 2019 International Convention & English Language Expo, which culminated with a reception at which Deputy Assistant Secretary Caroline Casagrande announced the winners of the Fellows@50 Encore: Go Back, Give Back contest, which sent 13 former Fellows back to their original host countries on special projects.

The winners shared their stories throughout the year, including Richard Silberg (Cambodia 2015-2016) and Summer Peixoto (Brazil 2008-2009).

Silberg returned to his host institution three years after his fellowship to provide mentoring and training to novice teachers. He also visited his former students in their schools and homes in two rural provinces in Cambodia. Silberg shared, “To reconnect with my former students and see them in their schools, villages, and homes was a profound experience.”

Silberg eating lunch at the home of one of his former students in Kratié

Peixoto returned ten years after her fellowship. She worked with Brazilian administrators, local artists, instructors, government leaders, teachers, and students to transform regional materials into classroom resources. She also developed a digital storytelling project highlighting Amazonian culture, that she shared in her home state of Kansas. Peixoto shared, “The most impactful piece of this project was the union of so many people from all areas of the city who partnered with me to carry out this project. Their sincere efforts appropriately punctuated the principal similarity between Kansas and Manaus; the people of both areas are spirited, kind, and committed to doing good in the world.”

Peixoto poses with the wide variety of partners with whom she collaborated

In another anniversary contest, Fellow alumni nominated colleagues from their host institutions who are making outstanding contributions to their local English language teaching communities. Twenty-five teachers were brought to the United States for a two-week professional development program at IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis), where they shared experiences and perspectives, with an emphasis on developing and maintaining international partnerships; incorporating culture as a core element of language learning; using technology to connect classrooms; and teaching EFL with a focus on service learning and civic literacy.

The Outstanding Colleagues visited the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis

Finishing their exchange with a bang, the international visitors were reunited with their Fellow nominators at the 50th Anniversary Celebration week, which included workshops, a scavenger hunt on the National Mall, and a dinner at the U.S. Department of State that concluded the full year of festivities.

Fellow alumni and colleagues had fun working together during the scavenger hunt on the National Mall

The celebration dinner gathered more than 200 guests, including Department of State dignitaries, foreign embassy representatives, institutional partners, international visitors, and alumni. Three Fellow alumni were awarded for their unique contributions during and after their fellowships: Fabio Coelho, Public Diplomacy Award; April Perkins, Alumni Impact Award; Beth Baumgartner, Cross-Cultural Award. In addition, seven U.S. universities were awarded as top producing institutions and partners.

The evening ended with a toast to another 50 years of promoting mutual professional and cultural exchange with the English Language Fellow Program!

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the English Language Programs in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the U.S. State of Department in Washington, D.C.

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary, the English Language Programs sent 13 Fellow alumni back to their countries-of-assignments for short-term projects. These alumni returned to Uzbekistan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, Ecuador, Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Lebanon, Tanzania, and Cambodia. 

Contest Winners:

Christine Smart – Uzbekistan, 2015-2016

Summer Peixoto – Brazil, 2008-2010

Alexis Cherewka – Burkina Faso, 2016-2017

Heather Linville – Indonesia, 2006-2007

Katherine Guevara – Ecuador, 2008-2009

Leslie Sapp – Turkey, 2013-2014

Nancy Burkhalter – Russia, 2012-2013

Stephen Sadlier – Azerbaijan, 2003-2004

Kate Kessler – Indonesia, 2012-2013

Dana Poole – Israel, 2007-2008

Sarah Gulley – Lebanon, 2009-2010

Lee Anne McIlroy – Tanzania, 2012-2013

Richard Silberg – Cambodia, 2015-2016


The English Language Fellow Program began in 1969 with a small number of teachers in Latin America. In the 1970s, a participant was sent to Africa for the first time. The program quickly expanded to a worldwide exchange by the 1980s, with a large number of educators sent to the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This program has sent thousands of educators to over 80 countries worldwide.

This year, the English Language Fellow Program is the largest it’s ever been, sending 173 experienced U.S. TESOL professionals on 10-month paid teaching assignments at universities and other academic institutions around the world.


English Language Programs celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the English Language Fellow Program! Check out our video of happy birthday wishes from Fellows and alumni from around the world.


Throughout 2020, we will be hosting events and providing exciting opportunities. Check back here throughout the year for information about upcoming events.

Over the years we have lost contact with many of our former participants. We want to be sure we have up-to-date contact information for all our former participants. Please take a moment to provide us with your contact information, so we can keep you in the loop on the upcoming festivities.