NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The director of the Greater Brunswick Charter School (GBCS) has been tapped for an international study program directed under the sponsorship of the federal Department of State and the Fulbright Scholarship Board.

Vanessa Jones, educational director of the charter school, is one of 10 educators from across the country selected for the Fulbright Leaders for Global Schools, a 10-day program that will send the participants to Finland for study and discussions with school leaders from that country.

"The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries," officials from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) said in statement announcing Jones' selection earlier this month.

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The ECA, part of the Department of State, described the Fulbright program trip to Finland as "for an immersive international experience to gain a deeper understanding of their roles as leaders in educating students who are ready for the global economy." Participants leave for the program next month.

Jones, who resides in Franklin Township, worked for 20 years as a teacher before becoming the leader of the charter school. She read about and studied the educational system in Finland before applying for the Fulbright program.

"I'm intrigued with the similarities between the goals established at my school and their (Finland) schools' progressive mindsets, value of democracy, peace education, and play," Jones said in her application. "My interest is truly piqued by the academic achievement they have been able to attain across demographics, including underserved populations," she said.

Jones also described her experience with New Jersey educational systems, where she has seen teachers become discouraged.

"We are seeing teacher retention steadily declining each year. Teachers are leaving the profession all together," Jones wrote, adding that fewer teachers are entering the field.

 
"Teachers in Finland work less hours, and often spend time away from school disconnecting and recharging," she said in the application.
 
"I want to analyze the practices in Finland with peers and determine what we can adopt to help our American teachers manage their workload, increase happiness and retention, all while creating students who are emotionally and academically ready for the global economy," she said.
 
Born in Westerville, Ohio, Jones moved with her family to Franklin Township when she was 11.  After graduating from Franklin High School in 1990, she a bachelor's degree in psychology and education from Rutgers University's Douglass College, and later received early childhood teacher certification.
 
In 2009 she received a  masters in educational leadership from The College of New Jersey, and in 2018, she completed an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher certification program from the same school.
 
Funded by Congress, the Fulbright Program works with participating governments and host institutions, corporations, and foundations in foreign countries and operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

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

Jones hopes to learn how school leaders in Finland shape their programs and then work with teachers here to find ways to transfer what she learns to schools in the United States.

"I believe that students in underserved communities like GBCS should have access to an effective, progressive model of education," Jones said.