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Mount Made: From P.S. 1K to South America

12/19/2019

Alumna Wins Fulbright to Expand Educational Opportunity

Christina Mesk ’04 starts most days before the sun even has the chance to shine.

Arriving at work by 7 a.m., Christina takes a few moments of quiet to prepare her lessons as a fourth and fifth grade special education teacher at Brooklyn’s P.S. 1K—a position she’s held for the past 10 years. She enjoys a few moments of the predawn peace and solitude before the hustle and bustle of the day, which usually begins as 12 eager students greet her in the school yard. Inside the classroom, Christina works with learners with special needs, including students with learning disabilities, speech and language impairments, autism, and ADHD.

But as a passionate educator, her job incorporates much more than just lesson plans and standardized exams.

Her journey began at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, where she was mentored by caring and dedicated educators. And she still keeps in contact with many of her professors, including Sisters Anne Denise Brennan and Patricia McGowan and Professor Mary Ellen Sullivan, who not only instilled in her the values of service, but also supported her endeavors both in and outside the classroom.

To further those experiences, Christina is now set to travel abroad as one of the Mount community’s newest Fulbright award winners, expanding her educational influence.

For the past two years, Christina has been a partner educator with Reach the World, a nonprofit organization that pairs travelers with teachers across the United States. Through this collaboration, Christina witnessed the power of global education in the classroom was introduced to the Fulbright program. Through Reach the World, students are given the opportunity to video chat with travelers in locations from Bolivia to Mongolia to Antarctica—engaging in deeper conversations about the culture, transportation, geography, and history of foreign nations.

With her Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Grant—which equips teachers to bring an international perspective to their schools through targeted training, experience abroad, and global collaboration—Christina has the opportunity to bring that global educational experience directly to her classroom.

Her work as a Fulbright scholar includes an online course on global education and a capstone research presentation at a national symposium, and will conclude in Summer 2020 with a three-week immersion trip to Colombia where she will gain the opportunity to be paired with a teacher in a local school and collaborate on best practices for teaching, learning, and professional development.

Receiving a Fulbright award is no easy feat, but the experience Christina will receive abroad will benefit both her and her future students. Christina’s time at Mount Saint Vincent taught her both a commitment to human dignity and greater cultural awareness—qualities which will certainly deepen during her trip to Colombia.

“The Mount is a catalyst for individuality,” she said. “I found my passion for teaching there, and I’m reminded every day of the important work I’m doing in the classroom.”

Christina works diligently to promote both academic and social-emotional growth among all her students. Doing so means countless hours in the classroom both before and after school, weekends spent researching the latest strategies in positive behavior support systems, and volunteering to offer professional development seminars and curriculum planning workshops to her fellow faculty members.

“I believe that children will grow and achieve their goals if they have a voice in their education,” continues Christina. “As their teacher, I’m able to bring those voices into greater conversation with my colleagues in order to develop the best practices for instructing our students.”

As a Mount alumna, educating the whole person is something Christina knows all too well.

The service-driven culture and liberal arts experience at Mount Saint Vincent embedded in Christina a belief that true education extends far beyond textbooks. Taking what she learned from her Mount professors and mentors, Christina is committed to stepping outside her comfort zone to bring the latest and best educational practices to mold well-rounded, caring students for years to come.

“It takes a lot of work to create a classroom with this kind of culture, but it is absolutely worth the effort.”

We can’t wait to check back in with Christina after she returns to New York next Fall, and we know she’ll be transforming her firsthand travel experience into engaging and creative lessons for her students at P.S. 1K.

Are you Mount Made? Do you know other alums carrying out the mission of the College? Let us know—we’d love to share how the Mount launched your career. Contact us to be featured!

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.