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Alumni Ambassador Chloe Bellows’ Fellowship in Brazil Furthered Her Drive for Civic Engagement

For Alumni Ambassador Chloe Bellows, the hardest part of her English Language Fellow project in Brazil (2018-2019) was that it had to end at some point. “It is hard to leave work you care deeply about and have been invested in building,” Bellows said. “But that is also the beautiful nature of being a Fellow—we want whatever we have been able to contribute to the local community to be successful and flourish long after we leave.” Bellows’ contributions to Brazilian communities also directly impacted her own career path. “My experience as a Fellow, working with colleagues at a public university in Brazil and teaching pre-service teachers in the Languages department, sparked my desire to return to academia and pursue a PhD,” Bellows said. “I felt ready to leverage my classroom experience, teacher education experience, and my professional growth as a Fellow to take this next step.”   

Now, as an Alumni Ambassador, Bellows is further expanding her impact by sharing her experiences with new educators around the country. “The perspective I want to highlight for teachers is that this really is an exchange, and we learn just as much if not more from our program experiences as what we impart,” Bellows said. “It was certainly a new challenge for me to move to a new country with a baby and a toddler, and then dive straight into a lot of new work as a Fellow. But it led to so much learning and growth, and we cherish everything we got out of it as a family.”

Bellows facilitating a workshop on ‘Communicative Language Teaching for Large and Multilevel Classrooms’ for 60 public English teachers at a four-day professional development event in João Pessoa, Brazil.

Bellows’ primary fellowship duties were working with the city of João Pessoa’s first public bilingual middle school to provide professional development to the teaching staff, build out the bilingual program with administrators, and mentor teachers throughout the year. She also provided professional development sessions throughout the year to all 50+ of the municipality’s English teachers, and worked at the Federal University of Paraíba to provide ongoing professional development workshops to area English teachers and teach a course to pre-service English teachers. 

Her secondary projects included developing and running a MOOC Camp at the university on Teaching English to Young Learners; speaking at local and national conferences; facilitating English language workshops at the local Institute for the Blind; and developing a 3-day professional development retreat for the entire teaching and administrative staff of the bilingual school. “Having the opportunity to work with diverse teachers through different institutions was incredibly enriching,” Bellows said. “There was both breadth and depth in this work, which for me sparked intense and concentrated professional growth over a short period of time.”

Clockwise from top left: Bellows with her family at Lajedo de Pai Mateus in Paraíba; at the São João Festival in Campina Grande; visiting Salvador; and Olinda, all in Northeast Brazil.

Living in the lush and colorful sundrenched port city of João Pessoa in Northeast Brazil was something of a tropical dream for Bellows and her family. Known as the ‘Sun Gate’ and one of the greenest cities in the world, João Pessoa boasts nine pristine white sand beaches along its fourteen miles of coastline. Strolling on the beach with freshly opened coconuts, swimming in the clear blue tropical water, eating local fish on the beach at sunset…“All of this, while getting to practice a new language and grow as an educator was truly a unique experience!” Bellows said. “I also felt very grateful for the culture and people we were surrounded by, especially with my young children. Brazilians love kids and they are really integrated into the social fabric of the community.”

Bellows with Mongolian teachers at their closing certificate ceremony (left); and facilitating their hybrid MOOC Camp training (right)

As a Specialist in Mongolia in 2021 and 2022, Bellows led a six-month online teacher development program for twenty-five Mongolian English teachers, with a focus on best practices for facilitating MOOC camps. Following their training, Bellows’ participants facilitated MOOC camps for over 1,000 students and teachers, building a new network of English language learners and teachers in Mongolia. For Bellows, this project both opened up a new world and strengthened her work at home: Learning the fruitful nuances of virtual teacher training and conducting professional observations informs her current work with pre-service teachers. “What I loved about this Specialist project was that it really provided me a chance to form relationships with the teachers and mentor them,” Bellows reflected. “I learned about Mongolian culture, history, and language, even via Zoom! It is a part of the world I have had very little experience with and knowledge of, and it was enriching to connect with and learn from my colleagues in Mongolia, while also sharing my own culture and experiences.”

Bellows being interviewed for the Rutgers Graduate School of Education Centennial video.

Currently, Bellows is pursuing a PhD in Language Education at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education (GSE). Her research is focused on education in community organizations for immigrant and workers’ rights, and the civic engagement and civic action of excluded transnational populations, particularly undocumented workers. She’s also working on research in K-12 classrooms that explores how educators can welcome and leverage the critical consciousness and diverse linguistic knowledge of immigrant and transnational students. 

At the GSE, Bellows teaches in the TESOL and World Language MA programs and mentors student teachers in their ESL and bilingual K-12 classroom student teaching internships in New Jersey. She also works with a statewide professional development project that helps  teachers integrate civic action research into their classes and curricula. “I’m interested in the ways in which civic engagement is developed and how it connects with diverse, intergenerational, and transnational communities,” Bellows said. “Learning is happening in new ways and between new groups of people, on the streets and in marches and workplaces, as well as in classrooms. This is broadening the vision of what is considered learning and teaching and civic action.”

Bellows joined her cohort of 2023-2024 Alumni Ambassadors for the Fellow Pre-Departure Orientation and Alumni Ambassador Kick Off Event in Washington, D.C. in August.

For all of Bellows’ stellar professionalism, it’s the word ‘humbling’ she uses to best describe her journey thus far, and her learning yet to come. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a Fellow and a Specialist, and now to be able to share my experiences with others in my role as an Alumni Ambassador,” Bellows said. “Exchange experiences like these programs allow us to both share with and learn from the world, and as such are quite humbling. I believe that it is this type of experience that promotes understanding and the finding of commonalities, joy, and compassion across what we may perceive as our differences.”

Chloe Bellows was an English Language Fellow in Brazil, 2018-2019, and an English Language Specialist in Mongolia, 2021 and 2022. She has over 15 years of experience in the TESOL and bilingual education fields, at primary through secondary schools, universities, non-profits, and edtechs in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain. Chloe is currently an instructor in the MA TESOL and World Language program of the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University, where she is also pursuing a PhD. Her research focuses on community-based education for immigrant and workers’ rights. 

Stay tuned for our next featured Alumni Ambassador story with Melissa Hauke.

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This is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by Georgetown University, Center for Intercultural Education and Development.

All decisions related to participant terms (including candidate review, selection, funding, suspension, revocation, and termination) and all criteria related thereto are made and established by the U.S. Department of State.