“Lifelong learning is about being curious about the world around you”

Fulbright grantee Sara Poulin

Alumna Sara Poulin (BA Elementary Education ’24) loves helping people learn and seeing students accomplish their goals. She plans to do that in Greece during the coming 2024-2025 academic year as she has accepted the offer of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program Grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Sara Poulin
Sara Poulin

“It is important that students have a solid foundation in education – which led me to become an elementary teacher,” Poulin said. “Setting students up for future success early on is something that I hope to accomplish and continue to strive towards. Serving in a classroom as a teacher is both a privilege and an immense responsibility.”

With this in mind, Poulin applied to the Fulbright Greece program.

“Applying to Fulbright was a choice I made in hopes of expanding my knowledge of cultural exchange and language learning,” she said. “I choose to apply to Fulbright Greece because of the Athens College Hellenic-American Educational Foundation (HAEF) program and Greece’s immense contribution to the arts as well as religion.”

HAEF’s mission is to contribute to society as a beacon for Greek education, developing responsible global citizens and future leaders, inspired by Hellenic heritage and both American and European liberal values.

Poulin’s faith is important to her and contributed to her interest in teaching in Greece.

“The knowledge I have about my religion is because of the evangelization of Christianity, which took place in parts of Greece. I am intrigued to learn more about a history that is so impactful to myself and all of society,” she said.

Poulin’s interest in teaching started early. “I was a gymnastics coach in high school and automatically connected with the children and families,” she said. “I am a creative individual and have found that teaching allows me to express myself and encourage my students to do the same.”

Why did she choose to study education at a large STEM-oriented university like Purdue?

“I always knew Purdue was the school that felt the best for me,” Poulin explained. “After learning about the College of Education program, how the college injects you into the classroom early on, provides materials through the Teaching Resource Center, and offers constant support from faculty, it was clear what my choice was.”

“My Education professors showed support, offered office hours, and willingly dedicated their time to helping their students grow, and expressed how important teachers were and how we have the ability to really make an impact on students,” she said.

Poulin learned about the Fulbright grant through her enrollment in Purdue’s John Martinson Honors College when the National and International Scholarships Office (NISO) presented different opportunities for teaching abroad, then applied during her junior year. At Purdue, these grants are administered and coordinated through NISO.

“I decided that I would apply to Fulbright in hopes of gaining an experience I’d never have the opportunity to do otherwise,” she said. “My family did not travel abroad growing up and the spring before I applied to Fulbright was my first time having a passport and traveling abroad. It was within that trip that I realized the beauty in different cultures and my curiosity just ran wild after that.”

During the spring semester of 2024, Poulin student taught first grade at West Lafayette Elementary School. She also worked with English Language Learners through the Klondike Kids Club, which showed her the difficulty of learning another language.

“It has shown me how much encouragement children need when practicing another language,” she said. “Creating positive relationships with the students, practicing perseverance, and opening up to them that this can be a challenge but a task they can accomplish is one of my biggest goals.”

Poulin has some advice for current and prospective students: “Work hard and remember that you are only at Purdue for a short period of time. There were moments that I felt really challenged but it was the people I surrounded myself with and faculty that provided encouragement when I needed it the most. Remember you don’t have to do it all alone and there is a multitude of individuals willing to give you a hand.”

How does she think her time in Greece will contribute to her teaching knowledge?

“I hope to learn lessons that promote cultural exchange, strengthen my ability to teach English Language Learners, and utilize the techniques used to instill lifelong learning as well as increase self-confidence within individuals at Athens College-HAEF,” she said.

Poulin especially wants her time in Greece to impact her students.

“I hope to provide students with the confidence that they can achieve, and that a grade does not define them,” she said. “Lifelong learning is about being curious about the world around you, and I hope to make my lessons engaging so that the students can be exposed to this. It is through perseverance, effort, and curiosity that fosters language development – a pedagogy I hope to apply during my teaching experience in Greece.”

Source: Sara Poulin, spoulin@purdue.edu