By JEFFREY CULLEN-DEAN
As a Fulbright Program finalist, Marcel Cantu of Sharpsburg will head overseas to Thailand to teach English this fall for 12 months.
The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive fellowship that allows students to pursue academic endeavors overseas. It is sponsored by the U.S. government and designed to increase mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and the people of other countries.
The program awards about 1,900 grants each year to students.
Cantu was one of four students from the University of North Georgia to be selected.
“This recognition indicates the excellent academic and leadership development opportunities that we provide for our students,” said Bonita Jacobs, UNG’s president, in a press release.
As an aspiring teacher, Cantu said she chose to work as an English teaching assistant in Thailand in order to gain experience working in an area with an abundance of cultures.
“I chose Thailand partially because I was really interested in Thai culture and they have a very multi-cultural society and that’s something we see a lot in school districts,” she said. “Thailand generally portrays really good inclusion of cultures and religion and that is something that could be developed in American schools.”
Cantu said she learned about the Fulbright Program through the professor of a multicultural American literature class. She found the class impactful, she said, as it was one of the first times she was exposed to multicultural writing in a school setting.
Cantu said the opportunity provided by Fulbright would be a good way to start her career as an English educator and to learn new ways of increasing diversity in the classroom.
“I feel really passionate about it in different ways. One of the things I’d really love to do in high schools is to introduce more multicultural literature into those settings. Diversity should be reflected in literature,” she said. “So what I’m really excited about is to see how that is done there and having that teaching practice and learning about a different school system and how they teach in different ways and strategies.”
Previously, Cantu taught as a student-teacher in Gainesville where she worked with students who did not speak English as a first language.
“At first I was intimidated by the idea of teaching grammar, but I had so much fun doing it and came up with really creative plans for language acquisition. I think that will help me when I teach in Thailand,” she said. “That year and a half of teaching students has given me a lot of confidence and makes me feel prepared for Thailand.”