Thursday, May 6, 2010

Senior Matt Beck Awarded Prestigious Fulbright Grant for Research and Teaching in Germany


    Note:  Matt will be teaching in two schools in the inner city of Nürnberg, one school on each side of the Pegnitz river.  Here Matt talks about his interest in German leading to being granted this wonderful fellowship. 

    I started taking German as a junior at Pierz Healy High School, where it was the major language of study. Because of block scheduling I was able to take four courses in two years. I came to St. John's somewhat misguidedly to play sports, but I later realized the importance of academics and also the friendships that I have made here. So far, my best experience in German has been studying abroad in Ingolstadt, Germany. I lived with a host family and worked in an after-school program. At this program, I worked with a variety of immigrants who were struggling. My experiences in Germany eventually became the groundwork for my senior thesis, which I am presenting at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Montana. I am most proud of how far I have been able to come in four years - I'm certainly much more aware of the world that I was as a freshman, and I'm much more able to critically think about language, education, and politics.
    I've also found that the German major here is a great chance to foster community. This past fall, my roommates and I had Fr. Mark, Fulbright Teaching Assistant Andreas Raab, and our faculty resident over to make Wienerschnitzel. Events such as this are unique opportunities to get to know professors and other German majors better.
    My senior thesis synthesized many of my interests. Because of my experiences in Ingolstadt, I knew that I wanted to research possible improvements to the situation of immigrants in Germany. I ended up combining aspects of Marxist theory, Paulo Freire's critical pedagogy, and theories of second language acquisition. In the future, I see my self completing a Ph. D. or Ed. D. in education, most likely focusing on critical pedagogy or culture and teaching.
    Right now, I'm student teaching to get ready for my career in education. At the beginning of this semester, I taught at St. John's Preparatory School with Emmy Sack. Emmy was a wonderful mentor; in two months, I was able to greatly improve as a teacher. It was also quite strenuous - writing lesson plans for four different courses each day adds up quickly!
     Fulbright is an experience that will certainly help me in my future. Not only will I be able to improve my German, I'll be able to see a different educational system. It'll also give me some time to mature before I begin my career as a teacher.

Matt Beck