Grant allows research project for teaching about Brazil

Author: Bill Schmitt

Brazil group, IEI, Institute for Educational Initiatives

The Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) at the University of Notre Dame has received a Fulbright-Hays “group project abroad” grant to conduct a seminar project in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for current and prospective American school teachers. The selective Fulbright-Hays grants are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.

This project, spanning June 11 to July 11, accommodates travel and collaboration for a unique combination of 12 participants who will consolidate their own first-hand experiences in Brazil’s culture, its education system, and its dynamics of youth development. They will incorporate their interdisciplinary learnings and differing perspectives as they develop study materials for middle and high school students in the United States.

The goal is to cultivate a team of expert teachers who can help future teachers to build well-rounded lesson plans that can be taught in U.S. schools across a number of subject areas to enrich students’ knowledge of Brazilian society and Brazilian-Portuguese language. The future teachers represent cohorts already enrolled in accredited teacher formation programs as well as undergraduates committed to enroll in an accredited program. The particular program connected to the IEI is Notre Dame’s own Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), the combination of formal training and classroom apprenticeships through which participants earn a master of education degree and licensure eligibility.

IEI’s Brazil group is led by two institute leaders—bilingual project director Tamo Chattopadhay, with more than 10 years of research experience in the Brazilian education system and the youth development field, along with a senior curriculum specialist, Joyce Johnstone, with more than 30 years of experience in pre-service and in-service teacher professional development. The undersecretary of education at the State Secretariat of Education in Rio de Janeiro is serving as the host country coordinator.

IEI’s grant-winning group of curriculum developers includes four expert teachers working in Indiana high schools, four novice teachers, and four undergraduates who have made a commitment to begin teaching careers after graduation.

The expert-teacher segment of the group consists of: Maureen Grant, chair of the math department at North Central High School, Indianapolis; Bill Reed, math teacher at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind.; Doug Wehner, social studies teacher in St. Louis, Mo.; and Brent Yoder, a language arts teacher at Jackson Intermediate Center, South Bend.

The four novice teachers are: Aidan Gillespie and Laura Roach, both 2010 Notre Dame graduates who will teach at Cristo Rey High School in Chicago; and Dmitri Martinez and Tomilyn Thornberry, both ACE graduates who hold the M. Ed. Degree and teach in Chicago and Cincinnati, respectively.

The four aspiring teachers are: Molly Casanova and Megan Osterhout, both Notre Dame undergraduates; Elizabeth Kuhn, a teacher-education student at Bethel College in South Bend; and Olavo Noguerira, a 2010 Notre Dame graduate from Brazil.

The IEI is dedicated to interdisciplinary, problem-solving teaching, research, and outreach that improves elementary and secondary education, particularly for the disadvantaged, with a special call to sustain and strengthen Catholic schools. Learn more at

Contact: Bill Schmitt, IEI communications/media specialist, 574-631-3893