From Nambia to Chicago to Dallas, Hexter Elementary School teacher Courtney Bauer now adds Japan to her educational resume. Bauer was selected to participate in the Fullbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program, intended to raise awareness of and interest in Japan. As part of the program, she traveled to Japan for three weeks recently.

Bauer has been teaching in DISD for four years, spending the past two years teaching third grade at Hexter. She began her teaching career with the Peace Corps in Southern Africa, and then spent four years in inner-city Chicago public schools.

Sponsored by the Japanese government, the teacher’s program provides American teachers with an opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and share their knowledge with their U.S. students. The program says its goal is to “increase understanding of Japan among a crucial group of Americans who will be helping to shape and educate the next generation of leaders in the United States.”

Bauer says she applied for the program because she always hoped to travel to Asia, but she had no idea that she would be selected.

“I found out (about the program) throught my principal, who had left a flyer in the staff lounge two weeks before the application was due. I have always wanted to travel to Asia and thought: Why not? It can’t hurt to try,” Bauer says.

“I stayed up all night the day before it was due finishing my essay and assumed my chances were pretty slim. I was genuinely surprised when I found out I had won. I felt like I had won the lottery.”

While in Japan, Bauer visited various schools.

“Most days consisted of discussion panels with Japanese educators, politicans and artists, sightseeing and fabulous traditional Japanese meals,” she says.

“We went to Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Mizusawa. We spent one day each at an elementary, middle and high school, as well as Iwate University.”

Bauer was most impressed by the reception she received from her Japanese hosts.

“I was surprised by the elaborate preparation and care which went into our visits to schools and homes and the sincerity and generosity of the people I met.”

As a result of her trip, Bauer hopes to incorporate traditional Japanese art into her lessons, in addition to establishing pen pal correspondence between her own students and Japanese children.

“The culminating activity will be an art fair in May at the Trammell Crow Asian Art Museum. The third-grade students will then pass on what they have learned to the community,” she says.

Bauer was most excited to visit Sadako’s Memorial in the Hiroshima Peace Park. Hexter students joined children from all around the world when Bauer added their hand-made paper cranes at the memorial.

“The legend is,” Bauer says, “if you have 1,000 cranes, your wish will be granted. The memorial has our wish engraved: This is our cry, This is our prayer, Peace in the world.”

Hexter principal Christine Nee couldn’t be more proud of Bauer’s accomplishments.

“She will enthusiastically bring this cross-cultural experience back to the Hexter students, parents and fellow colleagues,” Nee says. “She is a fabulous teacher.”

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