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W.C. Friday teacher is ready to travel and learn

Jennifer Bumgarner, W.C. Friday Middle

W.C. Friday teacher is ready to travel and learn through Fulbright program

Jennifer Bumgarner is well on her way to experiencing a full lifetime of learning.  

The W.C. Friday Middle School English teacher has a passion for education that has encouraged her to pursue professional learning opportunities outside of the classroom.  Her zeal for teaching and experiencing new opportunities led Bumgarner to apply for the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program.  

Bumgarner is one of 71 individuals chosen to participate in the program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.  Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected based on academic and professional achievement as well as a record of service and demonstrated leadership potential. 

Spending 26 years as a teacher in Gaston County, the Florida native was selected to attend the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s “Teaching the Holocaust: Resources and Reflections” program at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  She says the immersive, life-changing experience in 2017 started her on the path to participate in more opportunities like it. 

Bumgarner spent the following days and weeks doing research, trying to find other programs like the one she had attended.  A new quest for knowledge had been sparked in D.C., and she was determined to find other professional development opportunities.  This resulted in her being named one of 32 educators (and the only North Carolina-based teacher) to participate in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Native Knowledge 360 Teacher Institute in Washington D.C.  She also was one of 36 teachers from around the country to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute in the Adirondack Mountains.

Bumgarner says it is because of these opportunities that she was able to learn about and apply for the Fulbright program. 

“These experiences have introduced me to an extensive professional network of like-minded educators,” she said. “It is because of that network that I learned about the Fulbright program. Not only will this opportunity mark the greatest professional achievement of my career to date, but it will also be my first experience traveling abroad.”

Next summer, Bumgarner will be able to cross ‘traveling abroad’ off her to-do list.  Though her destination is currently unknown, she is excited to see where the program takes her, quite literally, as Fulbright is active in more than 160 countries worldwide.  Once she is assigned a destination in January, she will travel with a small group of Fulbright educators to foster lasting connections between the United States and other countries. 

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright program has given more than 390,000 passionate students, scholars, teachers, artists, and professionals of all backgrounds the opportunity to study, teach, exchange ideas, and contribute solutions to important international issues. 

A graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College, Bumgarner hopes that her experience will help encourage others to apply for programs that interest them. 

“Teachers possess an inherent conviction that education is a vehicle for opportunity, achievement, and adventure,” she said. “And, we’re right!  There are so many opportunities for educators, and they are available at all levels.”

And if you don’t get an opportunity you apply for?  That’s OK, too, says Bumgarner.  She has applied for other high-ranking professional development experiences and was not selected.  But from those rejections, she was able to improve her application and learn from her mistakes. 

“I am incredibly honored to represent my school and my community in this venture, and I am looking forward to bringing back insights that will inspire my students, colleagues, and neighbors,” she said.  “I would encourage anyone to look into opportunities that spark your passion.”