With an unknown date and location, Dr. Katherine Willow, a music teacher at Orono Intermediate School, will be heading abroad as part of the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program.

Willow was awarded the grant earlier this year and is one of 71 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, plans have not been finalized; however, Willow will be leaving for a yet-unknown foreign county in late spring or early summer. Past Fulbrighters have traveled to Colombia, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, India and Indonesia.

According to a press release, the Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S government. It’s purpose is “to increase mutual understanding and build lasting connections between people of the United States and people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).”

The foundation for the program is formed by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Willow’s work within the program will center on building cultural competence in elementary classrooms. She will focus on “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.”

“The Fulbright program’s objectives--to engage in educational diplomacy, to conduct youth outreach, to exchange best practices in education, and to improve education in the US and around the world--are compelling goals that really resonate with me,” Willow said. “We need to give our students the tools they need to thrive within increasingly globalized economies and societies and to collaborate within multiple cultural contexts. This requires teachers to first increase their own competence in these areas. The Fulbright program is positioned to give educators the tools they need to do just that.”

Willow has been in the classroom for 15 years. Her teaching career began in Boston, where she taught music, ELL reading and math in a multilingual school. She also co-founded the therapeutic music program at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was then off to New York and Cleveland, where she taught music at a college preparatory school and served as a principal harpist with the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra, respectively.

In 2015, she was invited to Cape Town, South Africa, to present at the International Boys Schools Coalition. There was the opportunity to learn from other presenters, share in educational discussion and see South African sites.

“The South African countryside was absolutely stunning; the view atop Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope and Kruger National park were jaw-droppingly beautiful,” she said.

Three and a half years ago, she moved to Minnesota to be near family. She is not only teaching at Orono Intermediate but also leads a methods course for future music education at Bethel University.

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