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Professor's summer travels aimed at educational opportunities for students

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Holly Hansen-Thomas, professor of bilingual education, is photographed outside the Hungarian Parliament during a summer Fulbright trip.

The start of a school year invariably includes talk of “What I did over summer break.” Holly Hansen-Thomas’ story is bound to induce jet lag.

The professor of bilingual education at Texas Woman’s University spent part of the summer traveling throughout Hungary on a capacity-building study abroad tour sponsored by the Fulbright Commission. Two weeks after returning from that trip, she was off to a conference in Costa Rica.

Hansen-Thomas was one of 12 representatives of U.S. universities examining Hungarian programs that host international students. The tour was conducted June 11-17.

“We were busy from morning to night, every single day,” Hansen said. The group attended workshops at universities throughout the country, including the University of Debrecen, founded in 1538 and the oldest continuously operating university in Hungary.

Hansen-Thomas, who taught and studied in Budapest, Hungary as a Fulbright Scholar in 2000, said the experience was extra special for her.

“It was like a homecoming,” she said. “I visited old friends and went to the university where I worked.”

Hansen-Thomas said she also learned about special programs in Hungary, including Budapest Semesters in Mathematics, the Aquincum Institute of Technology and the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music.

“There are numerous opportunities for study abroad to that country,” she said.

A mere two weeks after returning from Hungary, Hansen-Thomas traveled to San José, Costa Rica for the ACPI-TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Convention. ACPI is the only English teacher association in Costa Rica.

“I wanted to get to know the teachers in that country, as PIONERAS will have its intensive Spanish language study there next year,” Hansen-Thomas said.

PIONERAS (Professional Improvement through Optimization of Native-language Education and the Realization of Academic/familial Symbiosis) is a $2.2 million scholarship and research project designed to improve instruction for Spanish-speaking English language learners in Denton elementary and pre-kindergarten dual-language schools. Texas Woman’s University students in the program will participate in a three-week intensive Spanish language study in Costa Rica in July 2018.

“Everyone at the (ACPI) conference was very kind and supportive,” Hansen-Thomas said. “Though it was an English as a Second Language conference, I’m adapting the information for our program in Spanish.”

Hansen-Thomas, a two-time Fulbright Scholar (2000 and 2016), has taught for almost 28 years in public schools, private language institutions, colleges and universities in Texas, New York and the international community. Her research deals with issues of second-language learners’ teaching and learning in school, and she has many national and international publications to her credit.

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Page last updated 2:35 PM, April 17, 2019