Helen Pitts works as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, teaching introductory German to UNL students. However, she will soon be switching gears and continents, as she has been awarded the position of English Teaching Assistant in Germany by the Fulbright Program.
Having graduated from UNL with majors in German and mathematics, Pitts is now working toward a master’s degree in German and foreign language pedagogy. In addition to her graduate teaching assistantship, she has gained teaching experience as the primary organizer of UNL’s All Girls/All Math summer camp. She plans to use the skills she learned in these roles to effectively teach and build relationships with her English-language students in Germany.
To reach her future students, Pitts said she will also harness her own background in creative writing by incorporating creative projects like fiction or poetry writing into the classroom.
“Students often feel more invested in creative work, so I would like to use prose and poetry to engage students with the English language,” Pitts said.
Pitts is not new to Germany or its culture, studying abroad through the Deutsch in Deutschland Institute in 2013. During that time, she worked as an intern for the U.S. Embassy to Germany in Berlin and developed a deep respect for the country’s history and literature. As a teaching assistant, Pitts said she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of German culture, particularly the minority experience in modern Germany.
Pitts sees the upcoming cultural exchanges with her students as the perfect preparation for her goal of becoming a diplomat to Germany, saying “the ETA program will be an important background” for the position.
The Fulbright Program is the flagship international education exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments, host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States also provide direct and indirect support. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in more than 160 countries worldwide.