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Emulating a Great Teacher, Fulfilling Great Dreams

When John Wetmore reflects on what he’s already achieved as a scholar and educator, he begins by honoring Donna Messina, his high-school Spanish teacher.

“When I entered high school, one subject in particular had me terrified – foreign language,” he says. He’d struggled with Spanish since kindergarten, and the thought of tackling Latin, a required subject at his rigorous parochial school, was especially daunting.

Fortunately, he was surprised and delighted by what he found in Ms. Messina’s class. “We would not sit regurgitating verb tables. We built conversations and communicated with one another. I discovered my love for languages, and through them, I discovered a larger world, other cultures, and diverse expressions of experience,” says Wetmore, who soon rose to the top of the national exam rankings in Spanish and Latin.

When it was time to choose a college, he turned down Columbia and chose Hunter’s Macaulay Honors College, where he was impressed by the dedicated staff, unrivaled monetary value, and excellent opportunities for study abroad. Later, with majors in psychology and Classical studies and a minor in chemistry, Wetmore took full advantage of those travel opportunities. He devoted a summer to archaeological fieldwork in Italy, and a winter break to exploring ancient sites in Crete and Athens.

On the Hunter campus, Wetmore worked as a teaching assistant in behavioral science statistics. “Tutoring other students gave me a great understanding of pedagogy, and helped me develop skills in conveying my knowledge to those facing difficulty in learning a topic,” he says. He also served on the Peer Health Exchange’s Leadership Council, teaching health workshops at high schools throughout the city and recruiting and training classmates to do the same. Now, the Fulbright will allow him to fulfill a dream of teaching English to students in Spain.

“I hope to be a great language instructor by incorporating all of Ms. Messina’s teaching strategies to successfully engage my students,” he says. He also hopes that when the formal school day ends, he can hold seminars on health and wellness, ancient Rome’s enduring influence in Spain, and photography –another skill he’s developed.

But first, Wetmore is spending June and July at Harvard, completing a summer program in epidemiology and statistics. As he considers a career in public health, he sees the Harvard program as a perfect start to the master’s he’ll need in that vital field.

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