Maria Morris of West Bath, a Jobs for Maine’s Graduates specialist at Morse High School in Bath, is one of of 76 applicants from a pool of 430 to be accepted to the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

BATH — Maria Morris will soon be taking the cultural gap-bridging work she’s been doing at Morse High School to another country.

The West Bath woman, Morse High School’s Jobs for Maine’s Graduates specialist since 2008, is one of 76 applicants from a pool of 430 to be accepted to the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program. Those who receive the grants are “selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential,” according to a program press release.

The Fulbright program, sponsored by the U.S. government, is an “international educational exchange” geared toward forging relations between Americans and people of other countries in order to “solve global challenges,” the notice states.

Morris’ first trip to Zimbabwe in 2014 triggered her interest in the endeavor. She realized as she returned home that her students “need to learn that what life is like here in Bath, Maine, is not what life is like in other places of the world,” Morris said in an interview Aug. 29.

The pen pal project she inaugurated between her students and boys living in a Zimbabwean orphanage sparked questions among the Morse pupils about matters such as the economy and employability in that southern African country. She returned there in 2016 as a Fund for Teachers fellow in order to research those answers, “because that’s stuff you can’t find in a book,” Morris said. “You can find some of it, but it’s better to be there on the ground.”

Thanks to advancements in technology, “we no longer have barriers; we’re a global economy,” Morris noted. “In the working world, you could be interfacing with somebody on the other side of the globe, and you need to understand the differences and the similarities.”

Her desire for learning more led Morris to apply in March for the grant, which doesn’t carry a specific dollar amount. The funding will cover a Global Education online graduate course Morris will take starting this month through December, followed by a symposium she will attend in January 2020 in Washington, D.C. The grant also funds a two-to-three-week international field experience Morris will undertake next summer to an as-yet-to-be-determined country, after which she will culminate her journey with a capstone project.

“When you apply, you pick regions; my top two regions were in Africa,” Morris said, adding with a laugh, “honestly, I can’t remember what I picked for my third.”

But it doesn’t matter – she just loves to travel.

“You can pretty much send me anywhere,” Morris said. “I like to learn and explore. This (program) is fully supported, and I know that it’s going to be safe wherever we go, so I’m really open to the experience.”

The endeavor won’t interfere with her teaching schedule at Morse, as the program dictates.

“That’s really ideal, because as I’m learning through the graduate course, I can start implementing some things that I’m learning,” she said.

Does this make Morris a Fulbright scholar? Not exactly, despite her being part of a select group.

The Fulbright Scholar program is different from the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms endeavor, Morris said.

Regardless of that, “I’m excited,” she said, acknowledging with a smile that she was “a little nervous. Being accepted for a Fulbright is a great honor that comes with a lot of responsibility, to carry on that honor.”

Begun in 1946, Fulbright has “provided more than 380,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, professionals and scientists the opportunity to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns,” according to the organization.

Regional School Unit 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel on Wednesday called Morris “a tremendous staff member, and we feel very fortunate to have her as our JMG teacher; she’s one of the best in the state at what she does.”

He called the Fulbright grant “a very deserving award for her.”

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