Fulbright award winner takes advice to heart: cultivate relationships

HISD social studies teacher Joseph Olan poses with Jeremy Lee (Punggol View Primary School, Singapore) outside The Rusk School earlier this month. Both are 2014 recipients of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching.

Since receiving a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching two months ago, social studies teacher Joseph Olan has not wasted any time.

The veteran educator, who also serves as The Rusk School’s Literacy By 3 team leader, has already made plans to work on a joint project with his counterpart in Singapore, Jeremy Lee, and he is cultivating additional partnerships with Fulbright award winners from Finland and Morocco.

“Orientation was in August,” explained Olan, “and all of us were put together for one week in D.C. The one thing that Fulbright officials kept emphasizing was to talk to each other, to collaborate and develop these relationships, because they will continue even if you leave the classroom (for an administrative position). I met Jeremy there and became very close to him. We have a similar mindset. We have talked four or five times a week ever since.”

Out of a field of more than 5,000 applicants, Olan was one of only three Fulbright award winners to be selected from Texas this year, and the only one from the Houston area. He will travel to Singapore on Jan. 1, 2015, and stay there through the end of April to study the correlation between character education and academic achievement.

“Sometimes kids think the nicer you are, the easier class will be,” added Olan, “but I believe you can actually have fun in the classroom and still maintain high levels of rigor. That’s what I’m out to prove.”

TEACHERS: There’s still time to apply for the 2015–2016 school year awards. The deadline for American teachers to apply is Nov. 5, 2014. Visit the Fulbright website for details.

2 thoughts on “Fulbright award winner takes advice to heart: cultivate relationships

  1. William Solomon

    Mr. Olan is an incredible and insightful educator, with a passion for community service! CONGRATULATIONS on your success!

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