Originally Published: August 10, 2018 8:46 p.m.
In Prescott High School French teacher Cathleen Cherry’s classroom, students experience a high-energy educator who does a lot more than teach a language — she offers a taste of world culture and diversity meant to tantalize them into thinking of a life beyond their day-to-day existence.
So the opportunity to broaden her own world perspective as a prestigious Fulbright scholar is cheered by colleagues and district leaders who know how this will translate to future generations of students.
“Cathleen Cherry is an amazing teacher who brings her passion for learning to her classroom every day,” Principal Mark Goligoski said. “Her passion is greatly appreciated by her students who not only get to learn a new language, but also receive the opportunity to expand their global view.”
Cherry’s selection for this once-in-a-lifetime honor is a recognition of how she has long offered her students a global experience, and now by participating in this Global Classroom grant project will be able to further “enrich the curriculum of a course that promotes respect for all cultures around the world.”
The United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board this summer announced that Cherry was offered a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms grant, one of 76 in the United States chosen to travel abroad through the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program for 2018-19. Her selection is rooted in “academic and professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential,” according to her official award offer.
This program is the “flagship international educational exchange program” sponsored by the United States government. The aim of the project is to build relationships between people of the United States and people of other countries needed to “solve global challenges.”
The program, first established in 1946, works in 160 countries around the globe.
Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 57 who have won the Nobel Prize, 82 who have won Pulitzer Prizes, and 37 who have served as a head of state or government.
READY & EXCITED
Cherry’s delight was obvious in a notification sent to district Superintendent Joe Howard, Assistant Superintendent Mardi Read and Goligoski, a district leader who this year was named the high school’s principal.
“I am beyond excited,” Cherry said in the message that shared about this year-long professional development opportunity that will encompass course work, a February symposium in Washington, D.C., and then a two- to three-week international field experience in a developing country in summer 2019.
Just before students arrived back for classes this year, the 25-year educator talked about her love of her craft, and reminisced about a summer she spent in Paris while earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona. Cherry, 50, has a bachelor’s in English and post-baccalaureate certificate in French, as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University.
“I did not want to come home, but you run out of money,” joked Cherry, who with husband, Dan, has two daughters, Madeleine, a 2018 PHS graduate who is now enrolled at Yavapai College and Arden, a high school sophomore. “If I could time travel, I’d go back to that summer. It was unreal.”
She suspects that trip may have been the spark that ignited her desire to become a French teacher as she is not of French heritage. She said she fell in love with everything French when she experienced it up close and personal.
In the early years of her career in Tucson, Cherry said she taught English to non-native speakers at a private school. She remembers having students from countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, places like Uzbekistan that before they entered her classroom she didn’t even know existed.
After seven or eight years, Cherry said her husband, a Prescott native, longed to return to his hometown, and she accepted a job in the Humboldt Unified School District teaching high school French. She also taught for a time at Tri-City Prep and as an adjunct at Yavapai College before accepting the job at Prescott High where she has been for the past 12 years.
“It’s a lot of fun. Everything is a lesson,” Cherry said, describing her first-year French classes as a “sort of preschool” as the students are learning everything about France — language, cuisine, art, architecture, and politics — from scratch.
“I really want them to understand there is a big world out there, and it’s not as scary as it might seem at times,” said Cherry, who likes to brainstorm about how other places in the world see them and how they view themselves.
In her application, Cherry shared short essays about her educational philosophy and how she intends to translate her global classroom experience into an enrichment for her own students.
She does not yet know where she will be assigned, but it will be in either Asia, Africa or South America.
“It’s been hard to be a teacher in Arizona for the last 10 years,” Cherry admitted. “I hope this gives me the shot in the arm I need to stick with it, and bring to students the realization that the world is at their doorstep and they can do whatever they want.”