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A Fulbright grant is enabling Teva Miller ’04 to serve as a teaching assistant at two secondary schools in Graz, Austria.

Working with children ages 14-18, Miller’s position is part of the English Language Teaching Assistantship Program financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education. Applications are administered by the Austrian-American Educational Commission and the Fulbright Commission in Austria.

Miller is among a number of recent Lafayette recipients of prestigious national and international scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and post-graduate study. For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, assistant dean of studies, (610) 330-5521. See also the latest edition of Aristeia, which showcases the achievements and reflections of some of the growing number of Lafayette students pursuing both academic excellence and engagement with civic life and social justice.

Nine Lafayette students have received Fulbright grants in the past six years. The other recipients are Hart Feuer ’05 [A.B. economics and business/German], Shara Gregory ’04 [A.B. international affairs/German], Michael Lestingi ’04 [B.S mechanical engineering; A.B. international studies/Russian & East European Studies], Jessica Coakley ’03 [A.B. international affairs/economics & business], Tarik Ghanim ’03 [B.S. electrical and computer engineering; A.B. international studies], Sarah Glacel ’01 [A.B. Russian & East European Studies/international affairs], Sarah Eremus ’00 [A.B. Spanish/Japanese studies], and Gregory Domber ’97 [A.B. history/philosophy].

Miller’s position is that of “native speaker” because as a U.S. native, English is her first language.

“It is important for me to be flexible not only with different professors’ styles and methods of teaching, but also with the age and English level of my students,” she says. “In some classes I have complete responsibility and autonomy for lesson plans and teaching, while in others I participate in in-depth debates over language and cultural issues, or share my own experiences of living in the United States.”

She also meets with students who want to speak English outside class. It’s a major responsibility to represent the United States to young people who have had no other contact with Americans, she notes.

“It is a unique position to be in when you wish to put your own country in the best light possible, all the while knowing that certain political and social activities affect your country’s image abroad,” Miller says.

Her appetite for spending a year in Austria was whetted during the summer after her junior year at Lafayette, when she studied intensively for five weeks in Bonn, followed by several weeks of traveling throughout Germany and neighboring countries.

She graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. degree, majoring in both English and German. A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Miller received Lafayette’s Gilbert Prize and its Rexroth Prize in German.

“I cannot speak highly enough of the education I received at Lafayette,” she says. “The professors I had in my four years there really made a great impact on me not only as a student, but also as a person. The guidance and knowledge I obtained from my professors will lead me to further ambitious endeavors, and the relationships I have established with many of them will last a lifetime.”

Miller speaks most highly of her German professors.

“I had the privilege to work with both Professor [Margarete] Lamb-Faffelberger and Professor [Edward] McDonald, both of whom gave me innumerable skills and advice not only for my undergraduate career, but also for the upcoming challenges I would face this year,” she says.

Her Lafayette experience prepared her to play a significant role within an Austrian school system that is quite different than the one in the United States.

“The main difference is that instead of having one track that all students follow, for example, from elementary school to junior high school and then onto high school, students in Austria have a choice of different tracks,” Miller explains. “Basically, after a student has completed his or her schooling at what is comparable to our elementary school, she or he must then decide what type of secondary school she or he wishes to attend.”

Miller teaches at two different kinds of secondary schools. At a Gymnasium, most students will seek admission to a university and there is a significant focus on language and creative arts. English is taught beginning in grade five, Latin from grade seven onward, and a third foreign language is added in grade nine. At a Handelsakademie, a five-year secondary school, students learn job skills so they can enter the work force after graduation.

Yet some of the experiences that Miller has enjoyed most have been outside the classroom.

“I often meet with several students once a week to speak English in a relaxed atmosphere, outside of class, where they feel freer to ask certain questions that they would maybe be too scared or shy to ask in class,” she says. “It is these small-group discussions that I look forward to the most every week, because I believe it is in these situations where the best understanding between Austrian and American life is felt by both my students and me.”

Miller will return to the United States in June. Her long-term plans include writing, working in the field of publishing, and attending graduate school to study English literature.

Spearheaded by Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright, the Fulbright Program was established by Congress in 1946 to demonstrate U.S. commitment to democratic values worldwide. The program aims to increase mutual understanding among nations through educational and cultural exchange, strengthen U.S. ties with other nations, and promote international cooperation.

Categorized in: Academic News