As a young girl in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Tiffany Soares ’17 dreamed of teaching English as a second language. In September, after earning her MAT and completing her Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) master’s concentration, she will travel to Spain’s La Rioja region to do just that.
Soares has been named a finalist in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. A first-generation American, Soares grew up speaking two languages: English and Portuguese. “I have a personal connection with immigration stories, diaspora and the yearning to learn English as a means to a better life,” she explains. “My family’s journey through this – and the inspiration of hearing my father’s stories of beginning school in the United States as a non-native speaker – has fueled me to pursue a career in teaching English as a second language.”
Soares is a four-year recipient of the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship. This scholarship was established to support the next generation of teachers as they work to learn their craft, foster learning and, particularly, inspire a love of reading.
As an undergraduate at Montclair State, Soares majored in linguistics and minored in Spanish, before continuing her education in the University’s highly regarded Teacher Education Program, which is recognized both nationally and internationally for its unique features. The University is ranked among the nations top 100 institutions for education by U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 “Best Graduate Schools.”
“I’m especially looking forward to immersing myself in Spanish culture and learning the history and way of life of a country I’ve wanted to visit since I started my Spanish studies nine years ago,” Soares explains.
She hopes that her experience in the prestigious international exchange program will give her a better understanding of the challenges facing students who are learning English as a second language. “I will soon be a foreigner in a place I don’t call home,” she says. “I hope to better my Spanish skills so that I can teach in a bilingual program when I come home after my time abroad.”
Soares follows in the footsteps of Jeremy Fishman, who as a 2017 Fulbright U.S. Student Program finalist traveled to Taiwan, where he has been teaching English as a Second Language.
“Montclair State provides excellent preparation and an ideal foundation for students seeking Fulbright grants and Tiffany’s success reflects that,” says Director of Study Abroad and International Programs Domenica Dominguez. “This year, we had six applicants to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Two were semifinalists – and Tiffany became a finalist.”
While Soares is the eighth Fulbright finalist in Montclair State’s 110-year history, the University has long been involved with the program in various capacities. Faculty currently serve on its Fulbright Campus Committee, which interviews and evaluates all of the University’s applicants. Faculty members have also received Fulbright Scholar Grants and the University has enrolled more than 50 international Fulbright students across all colleges and schools.
Named for former U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, and operating in more than 160 countries worldwide, the Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. Its mission is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.
“The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is committed to ensuring a diverse representation of the United States and American culture, which is well-reflected in Montclair State’s student population,” says Dominguez. “ Fulbright seeks applications in all academic fields offered by Montclair State from the sciences to the arts. In addition to our outstanding teacher education programs, our departments of Modern Languages and Literatures, and Spanish and Latino Studies prepare students for meaningful engagement with people around the world. That is just what Fulbright is looking for.”
To learn more about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit https://us.fulbrightonline.org