Celebrate Ms. Jennifer Booz, Fulbright Distinguished Award

Homer Middle School educator is going to Finland!

Jennifer Booz of Homer Middle School in Homer, Alaska, has been selected for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Research (Fulbright DA) Program to Finland, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Booz is one of approximately 22 U.S. citizens who will travel to 10 countries around the world in spring 2021 on the Fulbright DA Program. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as record of service and demonstrated leadership potential. Learn more about the Fulbright Program, a the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S government, and created to increase mutual understanding and build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

In her words…

Education is evolving, especially in 2020! What most intrigues you?

The world is becoming increasingly connected both to itself and to information. Gone are the days when the teacher imparted all knowledge onto students, revealing the mysteries of the universe. Beyond the critical skills of reading and writing, it will no longer be appropriate to teach facts and ask for recall. Students have this information at their fingertips. Educators would be foolish to not evolve along with our students. I see the role of education and teachers evolving into that of a guide and interpreter. I would love to see a teacher pose questions or present students with phenomena which is then explored. Teachers and students would then work together to sift through the vast amounts of information and students would learn the skills needed to navigate this new world. I am also interested in developing more ways for classroom students to feel empowered to make things happen in their community. I want students to realize they have a powerful voice, and take what they learn in school to use it.

Wow! What does receiving the Fulbright Award evoke in you?         

I feel both thrilled and terrified. This is a very prestigious award and I want to be sure to do my best during my fellowship to show I am worthy of this honor. I know I will be in the company of people far smarter and more accomplished than myself and look forward to collaborating with and learning from them. I am also very much looking forward to being a student again. I have so much to learn from the courses I will take and from the Finnish teachers I will be working with.

In retrospect, do you have guidance for your younger self?

I have always wanted to study and live abroad. For many reasons, this never happened during high school and college. Since then, it has seemed a far off dream that would never happen. I think I would tell myself, “Stick with it. Keep working hard, push yourself out of your comfort zone, keep learning and trying to improve yourself, and never let your work become stagnant.” Even after 17 years of teaching, I feel I have so much to learn. I want my younger self to know it will be worth it one day!

I hope my future self can tell me that my Fulbright experience was a life-changing one. I want to know I took full advantage of all the opportunities given me, embraced the culture, and made new friends and colleagues. I want to hear that it will be challenging but entirely worth it. (Oh, and I want to know that COVID-19 doesn’t interfere with the program by shutting down countries again!)

What’s a favorite aspect to your work each day?

If last spring and remote teaching taught me anything, it is that students are my favorite aspect of my work day. Middle schoolers are goofy and weird and hormonal and smart. My daily interactions, from hallway banter to engaging them in science learning, keep me going through the not so fun stuff.

With no limits, what is your dream three-to-six month professional learning experience you’d like to pursue?

I am doing it! The Fulbright DA is the ultimate in professional learning experiences for teachers. It combines living and studying abroad with high level learning and professional development. When choosing my host country, Finland stood out for a few reasons. First, their education system is generally regarded as being the best in the world. I want to learn from the best. Also, in 2016, Finland implemented a country-wide curriculum reform which, among many things, mandates Phenomenon-Based Learning (PBL) in all schools. PBL is near and dear to my heart so I hope to learn from Finnish teachers about best practices in PBL in hopes of bringing them back to my classroom in Alaska.

“Jen is a student centered teacher who always puts her students’ needs above her own. She is always at the cutting edge of embracing innovated instructional practices and is an amazing role model for her students. She will represent KPBSD wonderfully in this Fulbright experience and I am certain that when she returns her students and colleagues will also benefit from this amazing learning experience.”

John O’Brien, Superintendent of Schools

“Ms. Jennifer Booz is an exceptional physical science teacher who consistently represents her colleagues in leadership roles, and continually strives to further improve herself professionally. For the last seven years as the Homer Middle School principal, I have been fortunate to supervise Jennifer in her position as the eighth grade science teacher. Our school is located in a small coastal town at the end of the road in Homer Alaska, has a student body of approximately 200 seventh and eighth grade students from a high diversity of families and cultures including Alaska natives, commercial fishermen, and oil and gas industries. Jennifer’s physical science curriculum routinely incorporates community engagement including local scientists from a broad range of disciplines and teaches physical sciences through local relevant and current topics. Jennifer has been teaching middle school science for 14 years covering a variety of topics within science from engineering to the scientific method to design and modeling. Jennifer’s students are consistently engaged in high-level thinking and rigorous learning activities. Her ability to establish rapport and connect with the students, which has resulted in, improved student self-motivation. Jennifer continually refines her practices and in my opinion, this has benefited our student’s learning and academic achievements.”

Homer Middle School Principal Kari Dendurent

Congratulations Ms. Jennifer Booz!

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