Alumni Profile: Gloria Conatser, BSEd ’22

Spring 2024

2022-23 Fulbright Scholar

Gloria Conatser found it easy to relate to her students during her first year of teaching, even though she was in Germany for the first time and her students were from not only Germany but from Turkey, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere.

Conatser, a secondary social studies graduate, spent the 2022-23 school year as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Augsburg, Bavaria, in the Fulbright diversity program, which placed her at a school with students from underrepresented groups.

“I could commiserate with my English-learning students, because I was also learning a new language,” she noted. Conatser had studied German, but living in Germany required more fluency, and she couldn’t practice during the school day. “A huge part of language acquisition is listening, so I usually spoke only English for the students’ benefit,” she explained.

Conatser also related to her students who hailed from other countries, describing herself as a “product of cultural exchange,” with an American father and a mother from Mexico. Her life in two worlds made her not only comfortable with cross-cultural experiences but eager for them. She insisted on taking German at Waco High School — instead of the easy A in Spanish — and that opened the door to the family hosting two German exchange students in their home.

Texas and Bavaria also share the burden of stereotypes, Conatser noted. “In some ways, they are the Texas of Germany — we have cowboy hats and boots, and they have lederhosen and dirndls,” she said.

“The Fulbright mission is to spur cultural exchange, so half of my job was being asked random questions about the U.S.,” she said. Students asked a lot about the gun culture and school shootings, which she answered honestly.

“I tried to make sure they were comfortable asking uncomfortable questions,” she said. “Then one student asked why American mashed potatoes were white instead of yellow, and I had to wonder how long they had been thinking about that! (The answer is regulations on the kind of potato that can be grown in Germany.)”

Whether engaging in serious or fun topics, Conatser enjoyed representing the U.S., Texas, and Baylor.

Conatser’s school had an open and accepting culture, but schools in Bavaria practice strict tracking of students. She described it as two schools in the one facility — a vocational school and a “gymnasium,” which is college preparatory.

Conatser said being a Baylor student teacher at Midway High School was “much more intense,” because in Germany she was not the person grading papers. But upon her return, she re-entered that world and is now teaching government at an online public school in Indiana. Conatser noted that being an education major at COVID's onset helped her develop the skill-set for teaching online.

As Conatser continues her professional career, she plans to begin graduate studies at the University of Indiana in Bloomington next year. She plans to study international and comparative education while continuing to teach.

“My prospective research centers around the relationship between democratization and education, particularly the relationship between the health of a democracy and how it is a reflection of its education system,” she said.

She credits her success in pursuing higher education to the support she received in the School of Education and to Baylor’s McNair program for its encouragement of and preparation for graduate studies.