Fulbright Forum – May 22, 2012

20 Years of Teaching and Learning in Korea

The Korean-American Educational Commission warmly welcomes you to a very special Fulbright Forum presented for the first time by Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs).

ETAs teach in elementary and secondary schools across provincial Korea in addition to conducting volunteer work, extracurricular initiatives, and engagement with Korean society as American “cultural ambassadors.” Since 1992, over 1,000 recent college graduates have served in this important role. This spring, as we celebrate 20 successful years of the program, KAEC is proud to welcome six ETA speakers (four current ETAs and two alumni) to shed some light on the unique ETA experiences and accomplishments that go far beyond just teaching English. Some of the topics to be discussed include: working with special needs students, the Asian-American experience in Korea, adoption, extracurricular initiatives, mentorship of North Korean defectors, the nuances of cultural adjustment to a Korean homestay, and how time spent as an ETA can serve as a diplomatic foundation for impacting meaningful (ex)change long after the end of the grant year.


Sonia Kim
Sonia Kim is a 2011 ETA from Los Angeles, CA. She graduated with a B.A. in English from Brown University. She currently teaches elementary, middle, and high school students at Hanbit School for the Blind in Seoul. In addition to her teaching duties, Sonia takes Korean courses at Yonsei University and writes for various English-language publications in Seoul. After her ETA grant, Sonia intends to work towards educational equality in American public schools as a teacher or as an administrator.

Roberto “JR” Santosdiaz
JR Santosdiaz is a 2011 ETA from Chicago, Illinois. He graduated from John Carroll University with B.A.s in Economics and East Asian Studies. Currently, JR teaches at Jeonmin Middle School, a coeducational school in Daejeon. Throughout his time in Korea, JR has started a debate club at his school and has worked as an instructor for Camp Fulbright, an intensive English immersion camp. This summer, JR was selected to serve as an Orientation Coordinator for the incoming 2012 ETA class. After his ETA grant, JR plans to pursue graduate work in the fields of law and economics.

Matt Blesse
Matt Blesse is a spoken word poet, organizer, and educator from California. He has toured and taught across the United States for universities, youth detention centers, festivals, non-profit trainings, artist collectives, and poetry venues. He is currently exploring his homeland of Jeonju, Corea as a 2011 ETA. There, he is a high school English teacher and a learner struggling to grow in this fantastic and challenging place. He believes that art and education are at their most basic levels conversations, and in the larger sense movements. As such, he seeks to keep his craft relevant to and reflective of his experiences with oppression and transformation.

Emilee Lehenbauer
Emilee Lehenbauer is a 2009 ETA from Stillwater, Oklahoma. She graduated with Bachelor’s degrees in International Business and Community Nutrition from Oklahoma State University. During her first grant year, Emilee taught at Seogwipo Girls Middle School on Jeju island, and for the past two years she has taught at Dongdo Co-Ed Middle School in Daegu. In Korea, she has worked with the KKOOM orphanage outreach mission, edited Fulbright’s annual Infusion magazine, facilitated the U.S. Embassy-sponsored Youth Diplomacy Program, and volunteered with North Korean defectors through the Hana Center in Daegu. This summer, she is serving as the Chief Coordinator of the ETA Orientation Program. After her time with Fulbright, Emilee hopes to complete an MBA and pursue work in the non-profit sector.

Vincent Flores
Vincent Flores of Sinajana, Guam was an ETA from 2000-2003 at Pohang Boys Middle School, the first ETA to renew his grant for a third year. After his grant year, Vincent taught English at Sunlin University in Pohang. While working at the university, he helped create the Camp Fulbright English Immersion program and has been its Director since 2005. In 2009, Vincent started work at the Fulbright Commission where he now serves as Education Advisor and English Program Manager. Throughout his 12 years in Korea, Vincent has worked extensively to build youth programs that encourage creativity and cultural exchange. He continues to operate an English drama and speech club at Pohang Middle School which he created while living in Pohang, and more recently, organized the Camp Fulbright Junior Internship Program which brings middle and high school students from the U.S. to Korea during the summer Camp Fulbright Program.

Albert Lee
Albert Lee is from Seattle, Washington. As an ETA in 1995-96, he taught at Daejon Girls High School in Daejon, which has been Seattle’s sister city in Korea since 1989. Albert holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Pomona College and an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University, where he was also a Dean’s Fellow. While at Columbia, he served as Assistant Director on the award-winning independent feature film Punching at the Sun (Sundance Film Festival 2006) and as Sponsorship Coordinator for the New York Korean Film Festival, the largest annual showcase of contemporary Korean cinema in North America. Since returning to Korea, he has worked on various global feature film projects for Korean production companies including The Julia Project for LJ Film (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…And Spring). He is currently developing his own feature film projects while teaching filmmaking at Yonsei University.