Alumni Profile: Rebecca McHenney

September 20, 2015

Secondary math major Rebecca McHenney, BSEd ’15, is teaching in Mexico as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.

Rebecca McHenney

She said that being an education major was beneficial when she applied to the prestigious Fulbright Teaching Assistant program. But it was a challenge to explain the knowledge and experience she had gained in the School of Education in a one-page essay.

As one of four Baylor Fulbright recipients for 2015, McHenney headed to Mexico in August to begin a nine-month assignment. The program places her with a mentor teacher in an English-language instruction class. She will teach 20-30 hours a week in addition to an outside project in the community.

“The Fulbright application process was really long, but I was committed,” she said. “I didn’t apply for any jobs; this is what I wanted to do.”

She said Baylor supported her on every front. McHenney was part of Baylor’s Honors Program, which is how she learned about the Fulbright. Arts and Sciences Associate Dean Elizabeth Vardaman and Dr. Kirsten Escobar, scholarship advisor, spent countless hours helping her refine her essays (through 10 drafts) and coaching her for the interview phase, she said.

Her letters of recommendation came from her SOE senior intern supervisor, Sarah Barrett; SOE professor and mentor Dr. Trena Wilkerson; and SOE assistant professor Dr. Rishi Sriram, faculty master of Brooks Residential College, where McHenney lived for four years. “They are my three go-to people,” she said. “They were so encouraging.”

Teaching in a foreign country is not new for McHenney. In the fall of 2014, as part of her senior SOE experience, she taught in the Interns in Australia program in Brisbane.
“It’s a really unique opportunity as a traveler to be part of the daily lives of people,” she said. “I wanted to experience that as fully as I could, so I skipped some of the touristy Australia things to spend more time with the teachers. You can see a million tourist sites, but what really affects you is when you actually get to know the people who live in a place.”

McHenney also spent a summer in the Dominican Republic, teaching 6-to-8-year-olds at an orphanage, all in Spanish. She is excited to improve her Spanish in Mexico and is more nervous about teaching English since her major was secondary math.

A native of Wheaton, Ill., McHenney decided as a high school student to become a teacher, while volunteering in Chicago schools. “I found that I really enjoyed tutoring the kids, and every week I would come home and think about how to help these students,” she said. “I kept coming back to education as the best way.”

McHenney hopes to return home after her Fulbright experience. “My dream is to teach for Chicago public schools,” she said. “It’s not most people’s dream, but it’s where I want to be. I want to make a difference in the world.”