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Cedar Bluff Middle teacher receives Fulbright grant

A Knox County teacher has been selected to receive a cultural exchange grant as well as being named the middle school teacher of the year by the state professional organization for middle school educators.

Erin Powers, a sixth grade language arts and reading teacher at Cedar Bluff Middle School, has received a grant for Japanese study from the Fulbright Program, and she has also been named Middle School Teacher of the Year by the Tennessee Association of Middle Schools.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the Fulbright Program was established in 1946 to increase mutual understanding between United States citizens and peoples of other countries, through the exchange of people, knowledge, and skills.

When she found out that she would be receiving a Fulbright grant to travel to Japan this October, Powers said she was in complete shock. 

“I didn’t expect to be chosen especially because they only choose a couple teachers from Tennessee,” Powers said, “but I put my heart and soul into the application and knew that I did my very best.”

Powers will begin her trip in Tokyo. During her three-week stay in Japan, she will meet with government officials and teachers regarding the state of education in Japan and tour local schools.

In addition to learning more about the Japanese education system, she will also learn about Japanese culture through a weeklong home stay and tours of major cultural landmarks.  

Although she has a lot to look forward to during her visit, Powers said she is most excited about the home stay.

“I will be completely immersed in the culture,” she said. “I have never experienced staying with an unfamiliar family who speaks minimal English, and I won’t even be able to read the language around me.”

The Japanese designed the exchange program after World War II to build better relations between the United States and Japan. As part of her application, Powers had to devise a plan detailing how she would use the knowledge she gained in Japan to positively affect her students, faculty and community. 

“I hope to identify effective methods of teaching that the Japanese use, so I can integrate that into my teaching,” Powers said. “I also hope to build lasting relationships with Japanese and American teachers.”

The TAMS Middle School Teacher of the Year award is based on school involvement, teaching accomplishments, personal and professional goals and personal philosophy of education.

“I didn’t know I was nominated until I received a letter from T-A-M-S,” Powers said. “I showed the letter to my principal in disbelief, and she then informed me that she had nominated me.”

Powers was recognized at the TAMS annual state conference in Memphis Friday, June 15. The student council, PTA and Principal Sonya Winstead also honored her at Cedar Bluff Middle School’s awards day.

“It is nice to be honored like this because I have learned that in this field, the more you put in, the more you get out,” Powers said. “I absolutely love my job, students and school. Awards like this are icing on the cake.”

Powers has been teaching for six years, including a yearlong internship.


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