January 28, 2005

2005 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic school teacher's grant helps students
connect to the Middle East

By Brandon A. Evans

Traveling through a foreign land and seeing the everyday life of its people is something few Catholic teachers can afford to do—but that didn’t stop Carole Williams.

The teacher at Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School in Madison applied for—and received—a grant from the Fulbright Program.

The grant enabled Williams, who teaches art, English, journalism and creative writing, to spend a good deal of her summer in Turkey and Cyprus.

She got to go on the trip with about 15 teachers from around the U.S., each of whom had been awarded similar grants after proposing a certain type of project in correlation with the trip.

Williams proposed to learn how to make and use shadow puppets. The puppets are a regional creation that are delicate, thin, translucent and operated by sticks.

“A shadow puppet from Turkey is made from buffalo or camel skin,” she said, so obviously her creations will have to be improvised.

The trip was designed to help make Williams a better teacher.

She is going to present her puppets—and their background—to her students this semester. Her art students will also make their own shadow puppets.

Additionally, she’s preparing a lecture on what life is like in Turkey and Cyprus, and has made large prints out of more than 50 of her pictures.

One of the most important things that Williams said she’s bringing back to her students is how blessed they are to live in the United States.

“Even though I love to travel and love to go overseas,” Williams said, “I love to be able to go back home and say I’m an American and I’m proud of it.”

“[The students] live in freedom and don’t have any concept whatsoever of what it might be like to live in a divided city or a communist country,” she said.

Often, she said, they find school a punishment instead of an opportunity.

She was able to tell them what it is like to be in a place where freedom is not taken from granted. Nicosia, for example, the capital of Cyprus, is the only divided capital in the world (Cyprus is split between the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot administered area).

People need passports just to go from one area of Nicosia to the other, and armed soldiers and military helicopters are a common site.

Williams spent a lot of time pursuing something that interests her greatly: how the people of Turkey and Cyprus live everyday.

She had a chance to bake bread in large, outdoor ovens with women from a village, and the tour bus even stopped so the Fulbright scholars could see a circumcision party for a young boy.

“They invited us to dance with them—it was really unique,” she said of the event.

She also got to see whirling dervishes performed inside a cave, learning about the art of Ebru, or paper marbling, took many different tours, listened to presentations and even got to take a hot air balloon ride.

“We flew at a time when the sun was coming up,” Williams said. “We were low enough to pick apricots off the tree and high enough to be in the clouds.”

“The food was delicious,” she said. “I didn’t expect that at all.” She didn’t like the food in China when she taught there for a semester on a different scholarship.

In all, she has also traveled to Japan more than once on other grants.

She learned a lot from her recent trip—some of it was from being able to interact with the other teachers and some of it was in unexpected ways.

“What everybody gained from the experience was far more than what they had anticipated,” she said.

“Teachers should not be so reluctant to apply for things like this,” Williams said. “It just enriches your life and the lives of your students so much.” †


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