Baltimore County educators will be heading for Indonesia an Central America this summer when Fulbright Scholarship winners leave home for six weeks of travel and study.
David W. Philips, a social studies teacher at Dumbarton Middle School, near Towson; David R. Williams, a French and Spanish teacher at Dumbarton; and Paul Rivera, the supervisor of social studies for Baltimore County schools, have won Fulbrights that they hope will help them to expand their knowledge of the subjects they teach.
Funded by the National Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, the Fulbright program sponsors the travel of about 150 educators each year.
The program's purpose is to help qualified educators of social studies, social sciences or foreign languages increase their international understanding and knowledge of the people and cultures of other countries by studying abroad.
"Upon their return, they are expected to share that knowledge and understanding with their students, the community and other teachers," said Lungching Chiao, senior program officer and manager of the Fulbright program for the U.S. Department of Education in Washington.
The scholarship covers the cost of the flight, hotels, meals and everything except spending money. Trips usually cost between $5,000 and $8,000 a person, Chiao said.
Williams, 40, and Philips, 50, will visit Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Rivera will travel to Indonesia.
Philips hopes to explore archaeological sites and study the role of economic development in the countries he visits. He plans to prepare a demonstration for other sociology teachers in Baltimore County upon his return.
"The only thing I might find difficult is the language. It has been so long since I've used Spanish . . . but that should not be a big problem."
Williams won his first Fulbright in 1974. He traveled to South America on a yearlong scholarship for postgraduate study after graduating from Morgan State University. He hopes to incorporate much of what he learns this summer into his $H curriculum in the fall.
The journey to Indonesia represents a second Fulbright trip for Rivera as well. Rivera spent six weeks in India in 1985, a trip he now calls a "life-changing experience."
"It challenged me at a very basic level of adjusting to living in a very hot, visually demanding, exhilarating but also depressing culture," he said. "You learn a great deal about another culture, but you also learn a great deal about yourself."
Rivera said that the students of teachers who have traveled on Fulbrights have benefited almost as much as have the teachers.
"They get firsthand contact with somebody . . . who has an excitement and feeling for a culture and can communicate that directly to the kids," he said.
"Teachers who've had foreign studies experience are alert to the fact that you have to be careful about making generalizations."
Though most of the educators who travel on Fulbright Scholarships are high school teachers or college professors, Baltimore County has had some middle school instructors among its three dozen Fulbright winners since 1969, according to Rivera.
"Baltimore County is really unusual," Rivera said. "We've been networking with our teachers in the social studies office, getting them to apply for Fulbrights. . . . We've had a number of teachers do it, and they've come back regenerated and excited about what they're doing. Books help, but the direct experience is just critical."