Augusta Teacher’s Commitment to Inclusion Recognized Internationally

Students in the EL (English Learner) program at Augusta’s Cony Middle and High School have a lot to look forward to: Their teacher Karina Escajeda’s visionary grant applications secured her funding with which to attend two international schools where she will gain valuable insights for her classroom and community. Karina will attend Egypt’s Dahab School of Arabic Language and will be in residence at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece. All through the month of April, praise flowed into Karina’s inbox. These prestigious grant programs pledged thousands to make possible her language and cultural studies abroad.

Following her time in Egypt, Karina plans on bringing her knowledge of the Arabic language back to Cony (her alma mater) where she will foster stronger relationships with EL students, many of whom come from refugee backgrounds. When she is not studying in Dahab, Karina plans to visit additional cultural and historical sites across the country such as Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. Karina is rightly committed to the belief that students from Iraq and Syria add valuable elements to school culture.

For this initiative and foresight the Fund for Teachers emailed Karina on April, 4 to commend her for “bold vision” which “stands out.” This $5,000 grant was not the only source of praise and money for Karina: NEA’s Learning & Leadership Grant pledged $2,000 to Karina on April, 22. They thanked her for “hard work and commitment to the importance of high quality public education.”

In addition to her upcoming time in Egypt, Karina will study refugee integration efforts in Greece through the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. She will be part sponsored by, and lecture in, Aristotle University’s Applied Linguistics Program from January to June of next year (2020). This University’s teacher training program provides Greek teachers with the necessary skills to create inclusive communities for growing populations of refugee students. Karina has identified many similarities between the ways in which Maine and Greece welcome their refugee populations: “In both places, new residents are struggling to adapt to new homes that are almost entirely monolingual.”

The prestigious Fulbright Commission sent out a press release on April, 23 in which the U.S. Department of State (a major grant contributor) awarded Karina five months of independent study in Greece. The goal of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Semester Research Program is to build international relationships that work to solve global challenges. Karina will join an alumnus among whom there are over 50 Nobel Laureates, over 80 Pulitzer Prize winners, and over 30 former heads of government or state.

Suffice it to say the Augusta public school system is more than proud. We can all appreciate Karina’s “commitment to push the boundaries of [her] own learning,” as put by the Fund for Teachers. She will bring these new and enlightening experiences from Egypt and Greece back to her own community, and the students for whom she worked so hard to secure these grants. Congratulations Karina, and Cony Middle and High School.