MEA member Matt Cottone has been on a roll lately, and he wants other educators to know they can be lucky too.
The NEA Foundation announced in June that Cottone—a sixth-grade World Studies teacher in Rochester—has been selected as a NEA Global Learning Fellow for a one-year course of study and a nine-day field study in Peru next summer.
That selection capped a remarkable six-year run in which Cottone has been chosen to participate in six sponsored international trips intended for teachers to expand their knowledge and practice. This summer he studied the Holocaust with the Echoes and Reflections program in Jerusalem.
Before 2015, he had never traveled outside of North America. “Seeing different cultures I’d always read and heard about has been a life-changing experience,” he said.
Common misconceptions often stop teachers from applying for paid travel opportunities, he says, including thinking that it’s too hard or only intended for social studies teachers. “They are for every type of teacher.”
Cottone has not gotten every fellowship he applied for—not even close. But exciting possibilities to bring more of the world to his students keep him going. “It has made me addicted!” he said.
He does offer one warning: These trips are not vacations. “Generally the days start at 7 a.m. and end sometimes at 10 p.m. You’ll be very busy, but it will definitely be worth it.”
Beyond being willing to put in the work to apply (he averages about 14 hours per application), Cottone has four pieces of advice for teachers who decide to make applications:
- Find a program that fits your interests and will help your students.
- Do some research on the program to tailor your answers.
- Reread each question to be sure you address what is asked.
- Don’t give up if you don’t get accepted the first time.
Learn more about where Cottone has traveled and how to find travel opportunities for teachers at his educational travel blog, cottonetravel.weebly.com. Follow his travels on Twitter or Instagram at @cottoneglobal.