Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Transforming education

Fulbright Scholar Hannah Allen ’12 hopes to improve schools.

Hannah Allen ’12 doesn’t just want to teach, she wants to transform the education system both here and abroad. Since Allen was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for an English Teaching Assistantship in Bulgaria, she may just get her chance.

Allen grew up just outside of Baltimore, Md., which is where she witnessed the disparity between her “beautiful, well-maintained, private school” and the “broken-down schools” that were only a few miles away. This is what sparked her interest in education and school systems. “I wanted to figure out what was the source of all this brokenness and I wanted to be a part of the conversation to fix it,” says Allen.

She came to Wheaton and began researching education systems both in the U.S. and internationally. She attributes her interest in teaching to a required class called “Schooling in America.” “I found myself reading books about the pitfalls of urban education, learning about concepts like ‘pedagogy’ and ‘experiential learning,’” remembers Allen.

Allen now has a variety of teaching experiences to draw upon. She has worked as a counselor for various summer camps around New England. Last year, she was a Teaching Assistant at The Steppingstone Foundation in Boston, Mass. – a non-profit that assists low-income, high performing students in getting to college. In the fall, she began tutoring her peers in the subject of her major: Religion. (She also has a minor in American History.)

Her quest for knowledge has brought Allen to a variety of destinations around the world. In Cape Town, South Africa, she learned about the history and the impact of apartheid from her host families. This resulted in Allen completing an independent study project on the implications of private schooling on black township students. She has also participated in voluntary programs that took her to the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, as well as to New Orleans to work for Habitat for Humanities.

In 2011, Allen received the J. Arthur Martin Prize in Religion and has been on the Dean’s List every year since 2008. Her professors have described her as a “special and driven student” who is determined to make the most of her opportunities in college. She was a student preceptor in her Sophomore year, and is currently an Admission tour guide and a member of the College Hearing Board.

For the past four years, Allen has also been a singer in one of Wheaton’s oldest a cappella groups, the Wheaton Whims. She plans to use her artistic skills as another tool in her work overseas. “I would like to have my students explore English through different creative mediums such as writing and performing short plays or narratives, as well as writing song lyrics,” notes Allen. She hopes to form a singing group with her Bulgarian students.

Filmmaking is another of Allen’s interests, and she uses her camera to explore issues that she deems important. Last year, Allen completed a film about the relevance of the SAT test to college admissions in the United States. In 2008, she produced a documentary on the town of Moss Point, Mississippi after the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Her hand-held video camera will also accompany her to Bulgaria, where she will allow students to produce their own videos as a more engaging way of learning the English language.

After completing her Fulbright year, Allen plans to spend time teaching in the United States. Ultimately, she wants to attend graduate school in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of how to implement positive and effective education policy in this country.

“In the future," states Allen, "I wish to take my experiences and put them back into the school system that I know well, in a way that can transform the educational experiences of children in the United States.”