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Watertown native named Fulbright Award recipient

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Nazareth College senior Leslie M. Johnson always knew she wanted to teach.

However, the 21-year-old inclusive childhood/middle childhood education and sociology double major never dreamed she would be chosen to teach English in Malaysia as a Fulbright Award recipient.

“I was shocked,” she said. “It was a complete surprise to me. I put it out of my mind and was focused on going to grad school.”

In addition to the other teaching abroad programs and graduate school applications she filled out, she wrote “seven or eight drafts” of the two essays, theme of grant and personal statement required for the Fulbright Award before submitting them in October. She was informed in January that she got through the first round of the award process.

The Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs — Fulbright’s sponsor — defines the program as “the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.”

The reason the program was created was the very reason Ms. Johnson applied for it.

“I picked (Malaysia) because it is somewhere I don’t have any experience with,” she said. “I thought it would be something new and exciting. It’ll be something different than anything I’ve been used to.”

Classmate Joshua Herd also is a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship recipient and was chosen to teach in Germany.

Because the trip does not start until January, Ms. Johnson is going to Teachers College at Columbia University for a semester to start her master’s degree in sociology and education with a concentration in education policy.

Before jetting off to Malaysia for 10 months, she will be taking a two- to three-week intensive language course.

Ms. Johnson is no stranger to teaching abroad, having taught English in Veszprem, Hungary, as a part of her graduation requirements to complete two student teaching placements.

“I love teaching,” she said. “I love working with children. The professors I’ve had here (at Nazareth) have been one of the reasons I want to continue teaching.”

Ms. Johnson grew up in Watertown and is the daughter of Harold B. and Susan A.M. Johnson. While at Watertown High School, where she graduated in 2009, she and several other students improved recycling in the district by adding recycling bins in classrooms and offices and including paper and plastic products in the recyclables.

She is graduating Sunday from Nazareth College in Rochester and said she is excited about the new opportunity that awaits her.

“I’m extremely honored to have been awarded and am looking forward to it,” she said.

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