Alumna Earns Fulbright Award, Heads to Northern Ireland
For the second year in a row, a member of the East Stroudsburg University Warriors family has earned a Fulbright award, one of the nation’s most prestigious fellowship programs for teaching and studying abroad.
Cristi Marchetti M’04, a Lehighton Area High School English teacher, was chosen for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program which will enable her to work with students and conduct research at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for four months next year.
Marchetti, who earned her master’s degree at ESU in English secondary education, said she was elated and honored when she received official word last week of her acceptance. Her 6-year-old daughter, Vivian, will be going with her to Belfast.
“Adjectives can’t pinpoint the emotions I felt,” Marchetti said. She added that she is sure the experience in Belfast will be life changing for her and her daughter.
ESU Provost Joanne Bruno, J.D., said ESU is incredibly proud of Marchetti for earning the Fulbright, which is highly selective. Marchetti was one of only 45 Americans chosen for the Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program for 2016-2017 out of more than 200 applications.
“They identify those teachers who are really outstanding in their fields and show great potential for leadership as well as a commitment to learning about international best practices,” Bruno said.
The Fulbright program, which began in 1946, is the United States government’s top international educational exchange program. Fulbrighters have gone on to become Nobel Prize winners, heads of state and leaders in science, business and the arts.
For her Fulbright Inquiry Project, Marchetti will be studying public schools in Belfast that incorporate social services, community resources and activities. Such schools took off after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 that officially ended the fighting between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, referred to there as the Troubles.
“I had been working for quite a few years on trying to figure out ways to really bridge community and school,” she said. “In Northern Ireland after the Troubles, they started to incorporate something called Full-Service Extended School. It’s also been used in America but the difference is in Northern Ireland; because they were looking to really fix something socially they went about it in a vigorous way.”
Marchetti plans to examine how Belfast educators turned the schools into community hubs and hopes to bring back ideas for getting the whole community invested in Lehighton schools. She also expects to do some teaching at Queen’s University in Belfast where she will be based.
Terry Barry, Ed.D., dean of ESU’s College of Education, said earning the Fulbright speaks to Marchetti’s ability as a teacher and the Lehighton school district should be recognized for supporting her efforts to go abroad and learn about innovation in schools.
“Any time that you can go out there and see what’s working extremely well and bring it back to our education system, our students are going to benefit,” Barry said.
For the 43-year-old Marchetti, teaching is a second career. She worked for about a decade as a publicist before being hired as an English teacher by Lehighton School District in 2002. Getting her master’s degree at ESU was “a terrific experience,” Marchetti said. She counts as mentors three former professors: John Condit, professor emeritus of English, Kathleen Foster, professor emerita of professional and secondary education, and Cummings “Jake” Piatt, who was a retired professor of professional and secondary education when he passed away. They helped to shape her teaching philosophy and made her a better educator, she said.
Piatt had gotten her to think about the importance of community in schools.
“Dr. Piatt was terrific about making sure I understood the role of community and how a school isn’t four walls,” Marchetti said. “A school is a community.”
She puts that in practice at Lehighton, including holding a dinner discussion for about 70 people when she teaches “To Kill a Mockingbird” to sophomores. Students bring their parents, grandparents or neighbors and Marchetti invites school board members and other district officials. The students run the discussion.
“We eat dinner and we talk about the book and the movie,” she said. “This is a way for students to show their families and members of the community how smart they are. How often does a kid get to sit with the principal, superintendent, and head of the school board and talk about a book?”
Last year, Sarah Khan, who earned her master’s in education from ESU in 2015, was chosen for the highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Student program. Khan’s grant allowed her to spend nine months teaching at a university in Turkey.
The Fulbright program is named for William Fulbright. As a U.S. senator from Arkansas, Fulbright introduced legislation in the 1940s to use surplus war materials to sponsor student exchanges to foster global understanding. The result was the Fulbright program.