Paul Brissette, chairman of the high school’s art, design and technology department, has been selected to participate in the Fulbright-Hays Seminar Abroad Program to China this summer. He talks about this remarkable honor as an opportunity, not an achievement, which is how he talks about almost everything he’s ever done. As has been true for most of his career at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Mr. B, as he is affectionately known, deflects attention from himself to his department.

When he first came to teach at the regional high school in the early 1980s, he taught art. He was the art teacher. In the art room. Nearly 30 years later, he oversees an award-winning, nationally-recognized program with 26 courses, seven specialized art, design and computer facilities and five instructors. He talks about this development in such a pleasantly unassuming way, he almost makes it sound as if it were self-propelled and he just happened to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. That’s not true, of course: He is the one who made it the right place and the right time.

“I’ve had my fingers in most of it,” he says of the department’s explosive growth. As part of the same thought, he adds: “We’ve had such a supportive community.”

And one of his primary goals throughout the years has been to demonstrate that the department can be practical. “As enriching and valuable as the arts are, we needed to show that people can get jobs,” he says. In 1995 he took a sabbatical as a recipient of the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship. He used the opportunity to “take classes on subjects I knew we were going to need in the department in the future. I also surveyed professionals in Boston and asked what they saw coming down the pike, so we could design courses that helped to create careers for our kids.” At the time he was studying in Cambridge, and the high school Performing Arts Center was in the early stages of design as part of a large addition that was under way at the school. The architects for the project were based in Cambridge, and Mr. Brissette assisted in designing the facility. “It’s fully integrated,” he says of the center and his instruction space. “We can build things in my shop and move them right onto the stage.”

The Christa McAuliffe Fellowship is just one of many honors and awards Mr. Brissette has received in his years at the high school. The complete list is far too long for this space, but a sampling includes the NASA Summer Educators Program, the Walt Disney American Teachers Award, an award and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Unsung Heroes Award, which honors the top 100 educators in the United States. His graduate studies are equally far-ranging, from the Kripalu Health Institute to Rhode Island School of Design to Harvard University. As well as being an extremely well-rounded art, design and technology teacher, he is an accomplished artist in his own right, and has skills as a finish carpenter, a bartender and a yoga teacher (nationally certified).

But at the moment, his eye is on the Fulbright journey ahead of him. This is actually his third Fulbright-Hays Summer Seminar — he has already traveled to Indonesia and Brazil. He describes the experience as “the ultimate professional development for an educator — a full immersion into a culture’s history, economics, industry . . . it’s incredible, and it’s usually about a month long.”

The Fulbright-Hays was set up in the 1950s by two senators to create a program for educators in the United States to learn about what were then called thirdworld countries. “It’s usually a country we give aid to, although that’s no longer the case with China,” he says. “Each year they pick about five countries to choose from. China is the tough one to get. It’s the third time I’ve tried for it.” He does not yet know his exact itinerary, but based on his previous experiences, he expects to be traveling with about 15 other teachers, getting a comprehensive, intensive introduction to the country. “In Brazil I must have had 11 different flights. The major thrust is to meet with educators, so typically you’ll go to a college, a secondary school, a primary school. You often meet with the secretary of education. At the embassy you meet with the cultural liaison. You meet spiritual leaders, industrial leaders, media people, filmmakers. You attend lots of lectures. I went to a wedding for 4,000 in Indonesia. Usually there’s a party at the U.S. embassy on the Fourth of July. You are considered an educational diplomat, so you’re treated at quite a nice level. You get special access. It’s a very unusual experience for teachers, frankly, which is why I tell everyone they should do this.”

China will of course be very different from his previous experiences. When he went to Indonesia, “I barely knew where Indonesia was,” so he arrived with no expectations or agenda; on the other hand, “I had a very specific agenda (when I went to Brazil) because we had so many students who were Brazilian. I’ve actually seen more of Brazil than most Brazilians here, that’s how great these (seminars) are.”

The political climate in China is more controlled. “Brazil and Indonesia had no sense of ‘putting a good face forward.’ They took us on walking tours of some very difficult places, into the slums, and they were very specific — they said, we want you to know that this is what a lot of the country is like. China will likely be different, but I’ll be with people who will give me a straight answer about things. Anyhow, trying to put China in a package is like trying to put the U.S. in a package. In fact, it’s more difficult — China has 76 very differentiated ethnic groups.”

An applicant for a seminar must provide a proposal of how their experience will be used to benefit their students or community. Paul presented three specific goals to the selection committee: “First, [photography teacher] Chris Baer does an international program called Day in the Life. We haven’t been able to get China involved. I’m hoping to pursue that when I get there. Second, [I am interested in] anything to do with the historical or cultural aspects of China that I can integrate into our program, either through the arts or architecture. I teach architecture and I’m interested in what they’re doing with green design. They’re very polluted but they’re also number one in the world in solar cell development. And third, I usually put a package together I can use with the social studies classes. We have an International Day coming up, so I’m doing something on Indonesia.”

Mr. Brissette lights up when he talks about events at the school. Of particular interest right now is the Annual Evening of the Arts, which falls on Wednesday, May 18. Filling not only the PAC but also the hallways and rooms around it, the evening is a showcase par excellence. Musicians, singers, dancers and actors perform on the stage; paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, design projects, and computer-generated projects are featured on walls, tables, in studios and on makeshift columns up and down the hallways. The variety and quality is amazing. “A lot of our kids are going to art school and design schools,” he says with avuncular pride. “Good schools, too.”

He is two years away from retirement. After a long and storied career at the regional high school, he has weaned himself from focusing on what’s still to come and allows himself to appreciate what has already been. “There isn’t a place I can go in this country and not run into students I’ve had. Whether it is in Hollywood or Vancouver, or St. Louis at an architectural firm. That’s a success story, in my book. When people say teaching is satisfying, I think that’s what they mean. You don’t really experience that until about 10 or 15 years out — when you see where your students have gone. That’s the best part of it.”