By Madison Petersen, The Daily Iowan
Lauren Darby has long had a deep passion for helping others, which led to her love of teaching. Now, she has the opportunity of a lifetime — to teach English to students in Germany as a Fulbright scholar.
Darby is one of 14 University of Iowa recipients of a Fulbright scholarship this year.
The Fulbright is an international exchange program through the U.S. government designed to increase mutual understanding among people of the United States and people of other countries by enabling recipients to study, teach, and research abroad.
The award is given to select recipients based on their academic or professional achievements and their demonstrated leadership potential in their field of study.
“Being chosen to participate in the program is an extensive process,” said Karen Wachsmuth, the UI associate director of international fellowships. “Many applicants are very talented, and many apply for a few years in a row before they may have the opportunity to participate.”
The competition for the award continues to increase; the number of students applying has risen in the past few years.
Darby graduated from the UI with an M.A. in social-studies education after receiving a B.A. in international relations from Mount Holyoke College. Now, she hopes to further expand her teaching skills in Germany.
“I’m hoping to expand my teaching skills, participate more in teaching collaborations, learn about the German school system, and learn how to more effectively teach and communicate with non-English speaking students,” Darby said. “I feel all these skills will help me to be a better teacher in my future career.”
The native of Sharon, Massachusetts, said she became interested in the Fulbright Program because she wanted to study how different countries’ educational systems operate.
“I think that it is important to understand how to best approach teaching a student,” she said. “I feel that my Fulbright experience will better prepare me to teach non-English speaking students and be sure their learning experience does not suffer due to lack of communication.”
David Leshtz, an Iowa City resident of more than 40 years who has also known Darby for many years, said he thinks she will be a credit to the program.
“Lauren embodies the spirit of the Fulbright,” Leshtz said. “She is a gifted classroom teacher and school collaborator. I think she will benefit from this program, because she has a tremendous knack for forming relationships. And I think this will help her to expand her professional network tremendously.”
Darby said she hopes to move back to Iowa after the program is over and teach middle-school history.
“Most people do not think that working with 13- and 14-year-olds sounds enjoyable, but I think they are such a fun and interesting age group,” she said.