Email Status

Volume 17, Number 6
November/December 2001

Making Global Connections

A conversation with Michele Forman


The 2001 National Teacher of the Year talks about teaching Arabic on the need for more world history, geography, and languages in schools

After Sept. 11, numerous education commentators called on schools to provide more instruction in world history, geography, and languages, especially Arabic. Michelle Forman began doing so years ago at Middlebury Union High School in Vermont, where she teaches social studies. Forman, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, started the school's Arabic program in 1997. Last April, she was named 2001 National Teacher of the Year in a White House ceremony. She spoke recently with HEL about her efforts to help her students better understand the world and their place in it.

HEL: How did you come to start the Arabic program at your school?

FORMAN: As I studied the Indian Ocean trade network and other topics, I became intrigued with the Arab world and the spread of Islam. I began studying the language at Ohio State University [through the National Endowment for the Humanities] one summer and fell in love with it. The next summer, I took part in a nine-week immersion program at Middlebury (VT) College. When I began teaching phrases and greetings in some of my classes, students were very interested and asked me to teach them more. So we began meeting two mornings a week before school. I was overwhelmed by the response. We've had about 20 students each year. I returned to the immersion program for two more summers, got grants to buy materials and books, purchased an interactive computer program and got permission to it in the language lab. It finally became an official after-school program last year.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.