A Hermiston High School graduate will be furthering her skills as a teacher and bringing a global component to her classroom as the recipient of a national teaching fellowship.
Jennifer Macias Morris is a recipient of the NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellowship. One teacher from each state was selected for the fellowship, a yearlong program that helps teachers incorporate more global competency into their schools and communities. The fellowship will end with a nine-day field study in South Africa.
Macias Morris, a 2007 graduate of Hermiston High School, now teaches first grade at the Libby Center, a public school in Spokane, in a Spanish immersion program. She has also worked as a third grade Spanish immersion teacher in Seattle, and taught English in Chile when she was a college student.
Macias Morris said her parents are both immigrants, and that when she was younger, she was reluctant to embrace her own culture. But as she got older, she said learning about her parents’ journey and her heritage made her appreciate her background and others’, and encouraged her to teach her students to do the same.
She said she applied for the fellowship because it included a lot of components she wants to bring back to her students.
She will continue teaching while completing online coursework for the fellowship, which includes learning how to work with other community members and teachers to teach students about the importance of cultural understanding.
“I believe kids should learn about this, especially with everything that’s going on in the world, and come up with their own opinions,” she said.
In teaching younger students, Macias said she tailors lessons about challenging subjects.
“I come up with kid-friendly language,” she said. “The whole point is not to scare them, but help them understand.”
This year, she taught her students a unit on immigration, connecting it with current events, including DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
“I asked them to think about if their parents wanted to move to another country because they wanted to make more money, or if a kid their age left on their own, because they were in danger or because they wanted to be with their parents,” she said.
She said she tries to teach her students about current events, and includes guest speakers. She had her mother, who emigrated to the U.S. at 17, come and talk to her class.
Students also learn about specific problems facing their city, state, and country, such as food insecurity.
“We talk about what’s going on in the world, and get different perspectives,” Macias Morris said.