Bridging the Gap: Former Edelman Fellow continues work to help educators reach multilingual students

Former Cindy Edelman Excellence in Education Fellow Denisha Cambell named a Fulbright Scholar


During her tenure as a speech-language pathologist for Duval County Public Schools, Denisha Campbell, M.S., CCC-SLP was selected for the Cindy Edelman Excellence in Teaching Fellowship.

As part of her fellowship, she traveled to Puerto Rico and spent three weeks learning Spanish and immersing herself in the culture of a geographic area where English is not the dominant language.

She brought what she learned during that trip back to Jacksonville where she created a professional development experience for educators to support their knowledge and understanding of working with multilingual and culturally diverse learners.

“This project felt necessary as I recalled an experience when I was doing therapy with a student from Costa Rica. We were working on vocabulary and I asked him to name things that he needed for breakfast. I was expecting a response like ‘toaster’ or ‘eggs,’ but when he told me ‘rice and beans,’ I assumed he didn't have a concept for what breakfast was.

“It wasn't until I visited Costa Rica and realized that a popular breakfast dish was gallo pinto (a mix of rice and beans) that it wasn't my student who didn't have a concept of breakfast, it was I who didn't have a concept for his culture.”

After completing her Fellowship, Ms. Campbell went on to create an experiential learning experience for educators in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic Simulation Center.

“Though they weren't able to board the plane with me, I wanted them to learn and gain the same insights I had during my three weeks in Puerto Rico,” she said.

Now Ms. Campbell is set to embark on a new adventure building on her time as a Cindy Edelman Fellow. She will be going to Uruguay for 10 months next year to teach English to Spanish speaking students. We caught up with Ms. Campbell to discuss the Fulbright experience and how her career has progressed since her time as a Fellow.

Can you tell us a little about what you’ll be doing as a Fulbright Scholar?

During my tenure, I'll be responsible for teaching native Uruguayan Spanish speakers English in both the capital city, Montevideo and also in a rural area. Aside from this responsibility, I'm also looking forward to collaborating with several of the government agencies as a cultural ambassador to learn some of the practices/policies that have resulted in Uruguay being one of the countries with the highest literacy rates in the world.  

What made you decide to pursue the Fulbright grant?

My decision to apply for the Fulbright was inspired by a continued desire to grow in the areas of experiential learning. As someone who has taken several trips to Spanish speaking countries to learn the language and integrate within the culture to better support my clinical knowledge as a speech language pathologist, the opportunity to complete an English Teaching Award (ETA) seemed like the perfect next step. When looking at eligible countries and after learning more about Uruguay, it seemed like a strong fit and match to my desired goals of being to better understand and support my multilingual students.

As an Edelman Fellow, you went to Puerto Rico to study the language and culture and then worked with the Mayo Clinic on simulation workshops. How have those experiences changed you as an educator and impacted students?

The opportunity afforded by the Edelman fellowship not only helped me stand out as a Fulbright applicant, but they strengthened my focus and helped to pave the way for the "next steps" in my academic and professional trajectory. If it had not been for that opportunity, I don't think I would have had the language skills necessary to complete a Fulbright in Uruguay, nor would I have had the cultural experiences that would have prepared me to spend a year abroad.

How has your interest in multilanguage learners and your career developed since you were an Edelman Fellow?

As an alumnus of the Edelman Fellowship program, I've seen my interest in multilingual learners truly evolve by focusing on the intersection with literacy. I've always had an interest in literacy and the many opportunities that are opened by giving students access to literacy. By knowing that the multilingual population is continually growing in the U.S., while keeping in mind that there are growing concerns for literacy development post-Covid-19, I think this is creating a pathway for a fulfilling career. 

As an added note, following my return from the Fulbright I hope to serve as a cultural ambassador between the U.S. and Uruguay with the hopes that I can create a partnership to empower other educators, specifically those that are monolingual and work with multilingual students, to engage in cultural immersion and experiential learning experiences so that some of the gaps they experience can be bridged. I'm all about equipping people with as many tools in their toolkit as possible. What they do with the tools is their choice, but I aim to remove the idea of "limited access" from the list of barriers that can impede us from doing our jobs well. 




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.