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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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!