SANTA FE – Gary Bass is going back to Cambodia, but this time he’s not bringing his basketball team.
Bass, a teacher at El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe, is one of 13 U.S. citizens to win a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching Short Term Program (DAST) grant, Santa Fe Public Schools said in a news release on Friday. He’ll be spending the month of October in Kampot, Cambodia, working to implement an English language program.
The U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board announced the selections last week. The Fulbright Program is an international educational exchange program “designed to build relations between people of the United States and the people of other countries that are needed to solve global challenges,” according to a Fulbright news release.
Funding for the grant comes from an appropriation by Congress to the U.S. Department of State.
In a phone interview after school let out Friday, Bass said he was excited to win the award, which he said basically makes him a State Department representative promoting American culture.
“I hoped for it and I’ve been waiting for notification,” said Bass, who started the application process two years ago. “I’m really excited. I worked hard for it and I understand it’s a really big honor.”
Fulbright grant recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement and leadership potential, according to the Fulbright release.
“Fulbrighters address critical global challenges in all fields, while building relationships, knowledge, and leadership in support of the United States’ long-term interests,” it says.
Bass said he thought his earning national board certification in English as a New Language and the fact that he spent time teaching overseas gave him an edge over other applicants for the grant. He said the application deadline was in May. In August, as a grant finalist, Bass interviewed via Skype with an American diplomat and two Cambodians who work at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
Bass, who has taught English at El Camino Real Academy the last six years, spent 15 years of a 29-year career as an educator teaching overseas. He and his spouse, Jill Hutchinson-Bass, a teacher at Carlos Gilbert Elementary School, spent 10 years teaching at private international schools in China and Syria. After returning to the United States and teaching several years in Ruidoso, the couple spent five years at a private international school in Vietnam.
Asked if he ever had occasion to visit Cambodia during that stint, he said he had. “But I haven’t been to this town,” he said of Kampot, a city of about 40,000 people. “I coached basketball (in Vietnam) and we would take weekend trips to play tournaments in Cambodia.”
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia said she was proud of Bass for his leadership, ambition and the care he’s shown for students in Santa Fe. “I have no doubt that his talent and leadership will make just as meaningful an impact in Cambodia, as well,” she said in a news release.