VERNON-Local teacher and New Jersey State Teacher of the Year, Peggy Stewart, from Vernon Township High School, will visit Kazakhstan, for two and a half weeks in October. She has been chosen for the 2005 United States-Eurasia Awards for Excellence in Teaching Program, administered by the American Councils for International Education, and funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State under the authority of the Fulbright-Hays Act of 1961. Fifteen teachers, who were selected in a national competition to represent the United States, will visit schools, observe classes and work with award-winning teachers and schools in the host community. They will also participate in an international conference for educators to be held at California State University at the end of July. Stewart, who has been a teacher of social studies for 14 years, applied with the hope to continue studying the complex relationship in a global community and integrate this knowledge into her professional work. She hopes to establish an exchange program and home-stay visits through the contacts she makes during her stay in Kazakhstan. "There is a need in the community to broaden our cultural awareness," she said. "We're on the fringe of New York City, yet we have remained culturally isolated. However, two changes are taking place in our community. Urban sprawl is slowly increasing our cultural diversity and tourism has become our economic base. This transition requires education and increased cultural awareness for our community members." Last year, Stewart arranged for ten of her students to host students from China for a short home-stay visit. "This was one of the most memorable moments from my fourteen years as an educator," she said. "The home-stay experience resulted in extremely positive feedback, and I have been asked by many community members to continue providing this opportunity, to open doors to other cultures. "My hope is that the experience will enhance my intellectual growth, extend my network of friends and professional associates, and increase my potential to contribute to the education community," she said. "I believe that in the continuum of life, we strive to develop all aspects of ourselves, but what is ultimately important is the quality of what we give back."