Stories from the Field

Lessons Learned: A Teacher Broadens Her Own Horizons

Lessons Learned: A Teacher Broadens Her Own Horizons

Kristin Miller is an IB Middle Years educator at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Ohio. She recently received an NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership grant to travel to Poland to teach English to Polish students and to learn from Polish teachers. Here’s what she had to say about her project and its impact.

Tell us a little about your project.

For my project, I taught American English language and culture to Polish students in Otwock, Poland. I also networked with Polish colleagues and learned about the Polish educational system and the history of Poland.

How does this project help your students?

I was able to return from the project with a greatly increased knowledge of Polish history and culture.  I got a firsthand look at (and had many conversations with people who lived through) the Solidarity movement, the effects of Communism, and the devastation caused by World War II.

I have been able to share my experiences with not only my faculty and students but also with our community. The project has enabled me to have much more in-depth conversations and suggest research topics to our history students.

What do your students say about the project?

My students appreciated seeing pictures of the devastation caused by World War II and making history come alive–living on a continent far from where the war was mainly fought often makes it distant and slightly unreal for us. 

I also learned a lot about General Tadeuz Kosciuszko and shared this with my students. We’re doing a unit in May and what they learn from the unit will also then enable them to enter a scholarship competition about General Kosciuszko.   

What inspires you most about your work?

What inspires me most about teaching is seeing students get inspired by something they learn and seeing them want to learn more about the topic on their own. It was inspiring to see the Polish students using the English we taught them but it’s also inspiring to see my American students see history from another culture’s perspective.

What is your passion – in or outside the classroom?

My passion is learning languages. I love studying languages and Polish has given me a new challenge. I didn’t realize that Polish was one of the hardest languages to learn (on par with Chinese, believe it or not)!

I loved this experience so much that I immediately signed up to go back to Poland and teach again this summer! I had such a good experience that I was asked to be the director of a camp in Zalecze Wielkie, Poland this summer! I’m so excited to return and learn even more from my Polish colleagues and students!

There’s still time to apply for an NEA Foundation grant of your very own! The application deadlines for Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants are February 1, June 1, and October 15. For help developing your proposal, be sure to check out our grant-writing tutorial.