Evergreen Magazine

Fulbright Funds Study in Finland

Fulbright Funds Study in Finland for MiT Grad

Sarah Applegate ’92, MiT ’95, can’t remember a time she didn’t want to be a teacher. Becoming a teacher-librarian was a bit more serendipitous. She’d been teaching English for three years at River Ridge High School in Lacey, Wash., when the teacher-librarian at her school decided to retire. “They literally asked for volunteers,” Applegate recalls. “I had never considered it before, but when I thought about what a difference the teacher-librarian had made in my teaching, and the fact that I loved collaborating with teachers to plan lessons, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

public square in helsinki, finland

She went on to earn a library media endorsement from the University of Washington, and became a National Board Certified Teacher. This year, her work was recognized with a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching grant, which funded a four-month study of Finland’s educational system. Sponsored by the State Department, the Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program provides grants for semester-long educational exchange trips to 24 American and international teachers each year.

Applegate was based at the University of Helsinki, where she researched and observed how Finnish students are taught literacy and research skills. Her husband, Rob Campbell ’92, MiT ’02, and their 3-year-old daughter, Marieka, accompanied her on the trip, making it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“People from all over the world are coming to Finland to learn about their educational system, and I am getting to see it in action,” she says. “It is pretty inspiring to see a country truly believe that everyone can be educated well, and rather than just talking about respecting teachers, I am seeing a model that truly does respect teachers and students and provides options for students.”

Photo of Sarah Applegate © U.S. Embassy, Helsinki, FinlandApplegate credits Evergreen’s collaborative teaching model and the ethnographic research skills she built for inspiring her work as a teacher-librarian. “I am grateful that I had a chance to explore nontraditional research approaches, and now get to apply these skills,” she says. “Teacher-librarians need to be collaborative teachers and learners, planning and instructing with other teachers, and teaching across disciplines, and I felt I had the best models available through my Evergreen programs.”

She plans to bring back lots of new ideas about school libraries and collaboration with the public library system. “We are very lucky in the U.S. to have school libraries,” she says. “There are very few in Finland, and we need to capitalize on our strengths. School libraries are a chance to help create learning opportunities for all students. And while I can’t change the whole system, I can make sure that students are good researchers, readers and ethical users of ideas and information.”