“I’m honored and humbled to be a part of an elite group of educators.”
John F. Kennedy Middle School eighth grade Language Arts and Honors teacher Jennifer Gruca was named a 2024 Global Learning Fellow by the National Education Association (NEA) Foundation this week.
Gruca will spend the next year in a peer learning network, building global competency skills.
“This fellowship will provide life-changing professional development experiences that I can bring back to the students in my classroom,” Gruca said.
Gruca was chosen to be one of 48 public school educators spanning 36 states who represent the teaching profession in urban, rural, and suburban communities.
“I hope that after this extensive fellowship and educational process, I will be more equipped to not only connect my students with global issues and people but include educations about the many global backgrounds of my students who are already in my seats,” Gruca said.
Beginning next month, Gruca and her co-fellows will immerse themselves in online coursework, webinars, reading and reflection as well as in a two-day professional workshop in Washington D.C. next month.
She will also participate in a 10-day international field study in Costa Rica next summer.
During this trip, Gruca will investigate the historical and cultural context of the country and learn about its education system through meetings with policymakers, business and nonprofit leaders, as well as visits to schools to meet teachers, students and administrators.
A trip to Costa Rica in 2019 with a group of students and community members helped her learn about the country’s ecosystems of the rainforest, climb volcanoes, and study animals and plant life.
“I firmly believe that global education develops students’ skills to engage with their global peers and prepares them to be citizens of the world,” Gruca said.
Through a program called Transatlantic Educators Dialogue at The University of Illinois, she created a global collaboration last year between teachers and students in Turkey, Portugal and Moldova.
Gruca has worked in District 202 for 19 years.
JFK Principal Amandeep Hundal said Gruca has always been passionate about creating a space where students can learn about their cultural and global backgrounds.
“She provides students opportunities to share who they are and their beliefs. That is important for middle school students, so they feel welcomed in our JFK environment.”
The fellows will conclude their fellowship with a final project that enables their learning to be shared more broadly with educators beyond the program.
The NEA Foundation is a national nonprofit organization working to promote the best in public education.
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