At New College of Florida, Patrick Bon Tonissen captained the sailing team, helping win the school’s first regional championship. Later, he and one partner later set off from Florida and sailed to the Bahamas, igniting a desire for world travel.
He’ll be doing just that as New College’s 83rd Fulbright Award winner, headed to Germany in the fall to teach English.
Tonissen grew up in Panama City in a family with strong military ties. He played travel baseball on championship teams and developed a strong work ethic.
At New College, Tonissen studied history and German, and was active in student government, was president of the German Club and worked as a teaching assistant in German. He volunteered as an ESL instructor with the Sarasota Literacy Council. Tonissen also has been certified as an English Language Instructor by ProLiteracy, an international literacy nonprofit group.
Tonissen also became certified in Peer Mediation and Conflict Resolution and worked with the SailFuture program, founded at New College, mentoring at-risk high school students. He also served as an intern with Judge Michael Overstreet in Florida’s 14th Judicial Circuit.
After graduating in 2015, Tonissen remained in Sarasota and has worked for a year in mortgage banking at MB Financial.
He hopes to bring all his skills to bear as he teaches in Germany. While he does not yet have his school assignment, Tonissen knows he will be in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which borders Holland and Belgium, and is home to cities including Dusseldorf and Cologne.
Tonissen said the Fulbright teaching assistantships offers a unique experience. “It combines the perspective of international exchange with the capacity of education and the role of a cultural ambassador who engages directly with the local community,” he said. “It also is fantastic preparation for an international career.”
After his Fulbright year, he plans to attend graduate school and then pursue a career in the U.S. Foreign Service.