English teacher Niki Holmes has been awarded a grant through the Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange Program to spend a year teaching abroad in Scotland.
Holmes is one of 76 U.S. and international teachers who will travel abroad for the 2012-2013 academic year through the Fulbright program.
“I’m extremely excited. I’m up for the adventure,” said Holmes, who has taught 11th grade English at AHS for the last 14 years. Holmes grew up in western Pennsylvania and taught in Prince George’s County for five years before coming to Annandale.
Holmes said she’s been using her summer break to prepare herself for her position and ensure everything’s in order before she leaves in early August. To help prepare, Holmes has spent a time Skyping with faculty in Scotland about what her teaching experience overseas will be like. She’s also spoken with Marguerite Edwards, the teacher who will come to Annandale High School while Holmes is in Scotland.
While in Scotland, Holmes will serve as pupil support personnel, teaching math, science, social studies, and English to students ages 11 to 14.
“I’m dealing with a younger population of students than I teach here, so that will be a challenge for me,” said Holmes. Edwards will teach 9th Grade at AHS as part of her exchange.
Holmes applied for the Fulbright program last fall. “I felt like I needed to step out of myself and feel what it would be like to be in another part of the world, learning about their education system and about the way they live,” Holmes said of her decision to apply.
In December, she completed a phone panel interview while she was on a train headed to New York. “They told me they thought I was being arrested,” Holmes said, laughing. She learned of her acceptance in January and found out she was matched for Scotland in March.
“The process is fairly lengthy in time and effort, but it’s a patience-building endeavor. It gives you the opportunity to decide for yourself if you go because it’s not just an academic endeavor; it’s a big personal decision. It’s been a wonderful challenge in a good way,” said Holmes.
An avid traveler, Holmes has visited over 30 countries and relishes being in a new place. Last spring, she traveled to Brazil for two weeks. She also participated in a cultural exchange program to India through Rotary International. Although she’s been to London and other parts of the United Kingdom, this will be her first time in Scotland.
“I hoped that I would end up in Scotland because I’ve been eager to travel there,” said Holmes. “I suppose it’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster,” said Holmes. “When I first heard the news, I was thrilled, but as it gets closer, there’s so many variables to leaving for a year.”
Although her husband, Andrew Hollinger, director of communications for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will not accompany her to Scotland, Holmes said he supports her decision and is extremely proud of her.
Her students are also excited for her. However, Holmes said the exchange will be bittersweet because she won’t have the opportunity to watch her students graduate next summer.
“I am sad to miss that, but they’re thrilled because they know it’s important to me,” said Holmes.
The Fulbright international educational exchange program is sponsored by the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and “designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”