Steamboat Springs High School teacher traveling to Finland with Fulbright program

Teresa Ristow

— A Steamboat Springs High School social studies teacher will travel to Finland in January as a Fulbright award winner.

Meghan Hanson-Peters, a 12-year staff member of the school who has spent 10 years teaching and two as assistant principal, found out late last month she’d been selected as one of 49 citizens across the country to participate in the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program for 2015-16.

Hanson-Peters said she’d heard of the program a few years ago through colleagues she met during summer professional development and had been waiting for the right time to apply.

“My family was willing to support me and I had a research idea around Finland that I was interested in pursuing,” Hanson-Peters said.

The social studies teacher said Finland came up in the news often a few years back because of their academic programs and high student test scores.

“Finland test scores are blowing American test scores out of the water,” Hanson-Peters said.

She discussed Finland with her classes at that time and continued to remain interested in the educational practices of the country since.

Hanson-Peters said teachers in Finland instruct using cooperative learning, putting students together in groups and monitoring their performance.

“It’s this premise that in order for kids to be successful in a group task, they need to sink or swim together,” she said.

Hanson-Peters said that when trying to incorporate group work into her own classes, she often sees some students take on the bulk of the work, while others do very little, which is unsuccessful for the group as a whole. She’s interested in studying how this practice is successful in Finland, when teachers often struggle with it in the United States.

She also said in Finland students are expected to be globally minded citizens, though each student is able to design his or her own curriculum, a concept Hanson-Peters is also interested in learning more about.

Hanson-Peters’ research question is “How do Finnish educators strike the balance between emphasis on student-directed, individualized learning and cooperative, globally minded learning?”

The educational exchange program is sponsored by the United States Department of State and partnering institutions in 160 countries. Hanson-Peters will be provided a living stipend during her time in Finland.

Hanson-Peters’ decision to apply for the Fulbright award will positively impact the district, said Marty Lamansky, district director of teaching and learning.

“When you have a teacher like Meghan going out and doing this, and putting the application in on their own, what they will bring back is insight that will benefit all of their colleagues that they work with on a regular basis,” Lamansky said. “It really fits in with the strategic plan in terms of continuing to investigate what are best practices, not just in the region or in Colorado or the county, but anywhere we can find them.”

Hanson-Peters will move with her husband and young child to Finland in January, studying her research question through sometime in May.

When she returns to Steamboat Springs, Hanson-Peters hopes to have valuable new knowledge to share.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I hope I can bring back to our school district the things I’ve learned.”

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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