Maybe fortune cookies are pretty good prognosticators after all.
One Chinese treat that North Henderson High School teacher Pam Schlueter cracked open revealed “a big honor” was headed her way. In December, a prestigious teacher exchange award from the Fulbright Commission made that fortune a reality.
A Spanish teacher, Schlueter will travel to Montevideo, Uruguay, this summer where she will immerse herself in the culture and work as a visiting teacher for three weeks. Since this is an exchange program, Schlueter hosted a teacher from Uruguay for more than two weeks in February.
While it’s a tremendous honor, Schlueter doesn’t view it as an individual achievement. The community, she says benefitted when her Uruguayan counterpart arrived and made the rounds visiting WNC classrooms, civic organizations and tourist hotspots like the Biltmore Estate and DuPont State Forest.
“It’s sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Commission. I’m just thrilled to get this. It’s all-expense paid, and it’s a teacher exchange,” she says. “It wasn’t just my award. It’s an award for the county and for my school. Everybody is really excited about welcoming her.”
An exciting trip overseas is nothing new for Schlueter. She is a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Malaysia teaching science. In fact, she speaks Malaysian as effortlessly as she does Spanish and can even speak a bit of Chinese. Her travel log lists visits to 27 foreign lands.
She considers her Spanish background “an accidental degree” since teaching biology was her original career goal, but along the way she accumulated enough credits to earn that degree to complement the one she has in science. Spanish, she says, is “my life,” but she enjoys other pursuits. She and her husband, Brent, spent four years building their Henderson County dream home and learned how to incorporate a passive solar design.
“The neighbors think we probably just like windows, but even on a cloudy day, we get a little bit of gain,” she says of the sunshine that pours into her living room and helps heat the home.
As she prepares for her summer adventure, Schlueter says she is looking forward to the friendships her Fulbright award will foster. “One of the goals of this is a long-term foreign experience, creating pen pals with the kids and that sort of thing,” she says. “I’m really looking forward to it. The world is such a smaller place, and I do have something to offer, but I’m going to learn, too.”