My Fulbright Teacher Exchange experience began in August of 1999 with a three day intensive workshop at the American University in Washington, D.C. Selected American teachers and International Partner teachers participated. Mid-August, I arrived on my own in London and I set up my flat in East Dulwich; took a couple of test runs on the train and the tube to the Central Foundation Girls School, Tower Hamlets located in the East End of London.
I was ready for school.
On my daily train to London Bridge, we passed a sign that said: “Take Courage,” painted on a brick building. These words helped me through my first weeks. Only later did I learn that it was not a Salvation Army message, but the name of a “beer” on the outside of a brewery!
As I entered my first classroom filled with smiling teenage girls, I realized that my life would never be the same. My year 8 homeroom girls were 90% Bangladeshi, 5% Somali, 1% Asian & 4% East Enders. I taught Visual Arts, Art & Design to year 7, 8, and 9. They accepted me, and I accepted them. I learned a great deal from them that changed my life and hopefully, they learned a great deal from me. I was never sure if I had made a difference in their life until 2020, when I received this email:
Is this by any chance Georgia Vahue’s email address? I used to know her as Georgia Conaway. I honestly hope I’ve got the right person.
I know this is a pretty random message and I really hope it reaches good health. My name is Amina. I was one of your students at Central foundation Girls School in London back in 1999 – 2000, I was in 8I. You were my form teacher, you were also my art teacher. I hope you do remember me lol. You gave us your address before you left so we could write to you but I lost it and have been trying to find you since.
Honestly my reason for this message is to thank you for believing in me back then. All your lovely kind words have stuck with me throughout the years. You’re the one teacher that has always believed in me. My grades were always terrible but the year you taught us I passed everything with flying colours. Believe it or not, you had such a great influence on me. And I never got the chance to thank you back then. So again Miss I want to thank you for being a strong, independent, amazing woman that I look up to until this day, even though I knew you for a year only.
I look forward to hearing from you, if it’s you lol. If this isn’t Miss Conaway, my apologies, I am just looking for my favourite teacher who taught me in London a long time ago. Thank you and have a great day.
Georgia Vahue – Fulbright to The United Kingdom 1999