By Betty Lawrence
Anita Morton and Georgina Knell are exchanging jobs and houses for a year as partners in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program.
Morton, a biological sciences teacher at Parkway High School in Rockford, will move to England in August to teach Knell's science class.
"I will teach her courses, and she will teach mine here at Rockford. Also during that time, my family will live in her house and she will live in ours," Morton said.
According to information supplied by the Fulbright program, Morton is one of 170 U.S. teachers traveling abroad for the 2005-2006 academic year through the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program. The program operates in more than 150 countries worldwide.
"I am so excited about this opportunity. I want to go for the experience and see how British education operates," Morton said. "Georgina and I exchanged textbooks, and you know what, we're not that much different. The students doodle in them too. It's the same doodling." In early August, Morton and all teachers participating in the exchange program will attend an orientation session in Washington, D.C. Morton then will bring Knell, 31, who is not married, back to her home in Rockford.
A few days later, on Aug. 15, Morton and her family will jet off to Knell's home in Whitburn, England, a town about the same size as Rockford. The family of six will stay there until July 2006, with Morton teaching junior high and high schoolers in a town called Chesterly Street.
England is a favorite traveling destination for Morton and her husband, Kevin. When the opportunity came along to actually live and work there, the enthusiastic science teacher said she couldn't, and wouldn't, pass up the opportunity.
She became interested in the Fulbright Teacher Exchange program when former Rockford High School Principal Bill Steinbrunner showed her a flyer describing the program
"Bill knew I liked to travel, and that my husband and I were going to England for our 10th anniversary. So I just took it from there," Morton said.
Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement and demonstration of leadership potential in their fields. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Morton is president of the Parkway Education Association and says she often hears locally and at the state level about the poor quality of education in America.
"The education system in America is a good one," Morton said she believes. "And this is a chance to see first hand for myself."
There has been a lot of red tape to go through to prepare for the trip, she said, but added it's all been worth it. Her children, Connor, Tessa, Duncan and Aidan, can't wait to go, she said.
"The four-year-old asks every morning if it's time to go to England today. We'll see what it's like after a couple of months over there," she said. "Probably the biggest thing for the children will be that they won't be able to see their grandparents. But I think one set is going to try to come over while we're there."