ETHS history teacher earns scholarship trip to study in India

Sara Peck

When Adam Markgraf was in third grade, he loved to curl up with his favorite possession: a book on World War II.

“That freaked my mom out a bit,” Markgraf said.

Nineteen years later, the Evanston Township High School history teacher is traveling to India on a Fulbright-Hayes scholarship. Markgraf is one of 14 Chicago-area educators who will travel to India this summer as a part of a program called “In Search of Gandhi’s India: Teaching and Learning Non-Violence in a Globalized World.”

“The philosophy behind it is to promote understanding among different cultures and help people connect with each other,” Markgraf said. “The focus is how Gandhi’s message can be applied to the modern world.”

Program stops include Delhi, Nagpur, and Tejgadh, where Markgraf will visit a meditation center founded by Gandhi in the 1930s and an self-sustaining organic farm.

Participants will also attend lectures and discussions led by social activists.

“The itinerary is packed,” Markgraf said. “It’s my first trip to India, so I’m pumped. I’d never have opportunities like these as a tourist.”

Several ETHS teachers applied for the grant, which is funded by Oakton Community College, said Jennifer Fisher, chairwoman of the ETHS history department.

Markgraf said his primary concern is incorporating the themes of his trip into his two sophomore history classes: humanities and global Asian studies. He is also hoping his experience will benefit his colleagues’ curriculums and provide a different perspective on Indian history.

“I’m going to do a massive overhaul and redevelop my curriculum,” he said. “You learn so much just being in a culture and interacting with the typical person – the pace of life, the social customs, the cultural do’s and don’t’s. That’s all stuff that I can bring back.”

Markgraf, 27, received tenure from the school during Monday’s school board meeting.

“He’s just a bottom-line nice guy. He’s not pretentious,” Fisher said. “You’d want him to be your neighbor, and if my kids went to school in Evanston, I’d want them to have him.”

Though Markgraf has traveled throughout southeast Asia, he said he regretted not studying abroad as a student at Northern Illinois University.

“It’s always been something in the back of my mind,” he said. “You can only learn so much from books.”

Markgraf wasn’t able to teach abroad, but he was one of two candidates that Fisher considered for a position in the department.

“He thought that the interview went terribly, she said. “But we thought ‘Wow, I hope that we can get this guy!’ “

Fisher described one lesson where Markgraf juxtaposed Japanese and American art to explain the differences between the two cultures.

“He’s one of those people that was born to be a teacher,” she said. “He’s wonderful at integrating technology and literacy strategies. He starts with an essential question and weaves it through the entire lesson.”

Markgraf plans to use his experiences to give students a more global perspective.

“It’s really important to promote cross-cultural understandings,” Markgraf said. “That’s the direction the world is moving in. It’s important to teach more than a U.S.-centric history curriculum.”

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