John Kuhn knows how to listen.
It was his heart that first spoke to him when he came to Ambrose four years ago to major in teacher education. Teaching was a love that grew out of having great teachers at his alma mater, Marquette High school in Ottawa, Ill.
Just a few months ago, Kuhn, a December 2009 St. Ambrose graduate, stepped foot in his first classroom as an English teacher at Orion High School, Orion, Ill. He knew then that all his listening, all the mentoring, all his experience, finally was coming together.
He listened to his heart again when a suggestion was made that he apply for a Fulbright scholarship. He did, and recently was accepted into the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program in India. Kuhn is St. Ambrose's sixth Fulbright in seven years.
From late July through April 2011, he'll teach conversational English to 6th to 10th graders at one of India's kendriya vidyalaya, Hindi for "central school." Kuhn says he loves to travel, but being away from home for nine months is a slightly daunting prospect.
"I'm excited. I'm nervous," Kuhn says. "I'm a lot of both."
Kuhn credits a class on Hindiusm taught by St. Ambrose professor Carl Herzig, PhD, as the reason behind his interest in India and its culture.
And, as with previous Fulbright students, it was English professor Barbara Pitz, PhD, who offered encouragement to Kuhn to apply for the scholarship.
Throughout his college career, Kuhn's relationships with Ambrose professors has been rewarding and provided a firm foundation for his teaching career.
"The professors, teachers and administrators I've worked with have challenged and mentored me in an unceasingly positive way," Kuhn says. "As a new teacher, I've had plenty of ups and downs. No matter what happened, someone was always there with a laid-back, been-there-before smile and a pat on the back."
Once in India, he'll apply all he's learned and delve into the truly unknown. The spark he'll carry with him across the globe will be the one he had while observing his former students have a "light bulb" moment.
"My favorite moments are when a student will connect something we did earlier in the year, or something he or she has seen outside school, to whatever it is we're doing. I think those connections are what make English fun.
"I have an awesome time being in the classroom," Kuhn says. "I hope my students can tell that, and that they have fun, too."
India's students are receiving a genuine spark from St. Ambrose: a true teacher who lives to see the light bulb turned on.
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