Dawn Thomas, who will receive an MAT in secondary English education from the University of Iowa in May 2023, is the winner of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Award to Israel for 2023-24. Thomas is the UI’s first student to receive a Fulbright award to Israel.
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Degree: MAT, secondary English education; ESL certificate
Could you give us a brief synopsis of what you'll be doing with your Fulbright?
My Fulbright grant will focus on assisting English instructors who teach English and American culture to college students at the Academic Arab College for Education in Haifa, Israel. Haifa is Israel's main port city on the Mediterranean coast, home to a large population of the country's Arab citizens, and a vibrant hub for diverse cultural exploration.
I will use my role as an English Teaching Assistant to encourage Israeli students to bring their cultures, backgrounds, and interests into the classroom to cultivate language learning. This strategy will also allow me to learn about what types of celebrations and activities bring Israelis joy.
As I engage with the communities I will be living and working in, I plan to share my African American culture through music, poetry, speeches, and stories as a bridge to help Israeli students understand how African American expressions of joy, like music, dance, poetry, and art, have helped shape American culture. I will also facilitate English-language poetry workshops designed to reach Arab Israeli primary and secondary students as a way to build their English proficiency.
How do you envision this will influence your life/future career?
This grant will enhance my training as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher and future online instructional designer for English language learners who may find the physical classroom, school building, and learning spaces unwelcoming and harsh.
What advice do you have for future students interested in applying for a Fulbright?
Start early. Welcome your advisors' critiques. Don't give up.
Were there experiences at the UI that inspired you to pursue a Fulbright?
My academic advisor recommended it to me and encouraged me to apply and stick with it. My field placements with students definitely played a big part in helping me believe that I could embrace this opportunity.
Are there individuals you'd like to thank for their investment in this process?
Dr. Kari Vogelgesang, Jennifer Brinkmeyer, and Dr. Erika Johnson all gave me an enthusiastic "Yes" when I asked them to be my recommenders. I don't know what they said about me, but I can't thank them enough. Dr. Karen Wachsmuth, Dr. Ari Natarina, Dr. Kathleen Newman, and Dr. William Reisinger were all seemingly at my beck and call as I made almost 10 essay revisions over five months. My daughter Kayla and my longtime mentor/sister/friend Bridgette kept me on the path with prayers and pushes -- sometimes kicking and screaming -- until the job was done. My Hebrew instructor at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Renana Schneller, was and still is such an amazing inspiration for me and my future as a language teacher. And most of all, my advisor Dr. Carolyn Colvin whom, without her recommendation, none of this would have even gotten started. I am very thankful!
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