Mia Palombo is the first RIC student to become a semi-finalist for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship to teach in Spain.
A secondary education/social studies major, with a concentration in global studies, Palombo graduated summa cum laude, with college and departmental honors. She is the recipient of numerous academic awards and has distinguished herself through scholarly research. Faculty noted that “Palombo exhibits a deep commitment to learning” and “was outstanding as a student teacher at Narragansett High School.”
As a ninth-grade world history student teacher, Palombo implemented a unit of lessons on conflict resolution, a leading topic in civic education. She had her students reenact peace talks by taking on the role of different bodies of power within the Syrian civil war conflict. The various roles included the Syrian government, Turkey, the United States, Russia, Lebanon, Jordan, the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia. Students negotiated peace talks from their position of power and from the position of an ISIS fighter. They came to understand the importance of working through conflict by thoroughly understanding both sides of an issue.
“I want my students to be global citizens, not just citizens of our state or citizens of our nation, but citizens of the world,” Palombo said. “In this day and age, we are so globally connected that everything that happens in another country will, in some way, affect their lives. My goal is to open their eyes to what’s happening around the world and to supply them with the tools they’ll need to solve the issues of the future.”
One of the tools she provided her students to work toward conflict resolution was a practice created by Palombo’s cooperating teacher, RIC alumna Kristin Hayes-Leite, 2018 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year and social studies teacher at Narragansett High School for the past 16 years. Hayes-Leite developed an activity called Common Grounds where students are asked to partner up and discuss a controversial issue. “They weren’t allowed to disagree with what their partner had to say,” Palombo explained. “Their goal was to find a commonality in their two beliefs, even if they had completely opposing views.”
Palombo added Common Grounds to her arsenal of teaching tools and these practices informed her 50-page thesis titled “Drama and Global Citizenship in the High School Classroom: Student Response and Teacher Growth.” She noted that her use of role play and drama was inspired by her fifth-grade Henry Barnard School history teacher, Sharon Fennessey.
“For the entire year, all of our history was learned through theatre and theatrical games,” Palombo said. “Dr. Fennessey later wrote a book about her experiences and I used her book as the basis for my work and my thesis. I hope to see her again to tell her what she’s meant to me.”
Upon the end of her teaching at Narragansett High School, Palombo was honored with the Mary Alice Grellner Educational Studies Senior Award for excellence in educational studies and student teaching. Palombo is also a recipient of the Kingston-Mann Student Achievement Award for excellence in diversity/inclusion. For academic achievement, she was awarded the Presidential Scholarship, the Class of 1940 Scholarship and the Joseph Kauffman Annual Prize.
Should Palombo become a Fulbright scholar, she will travel to Spain and teach English language for a year. Her long-term goal, she said, “is to travel to every continent on the planet.”