Global Teacher Fellows Describe the Inspiration Behind the Application: Second in a Series

Last Updated: May 30, 2012

This article appeared in the May 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

The 2012 Class of Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellows are busily making final arrangements for their travels which will take them from their schools in Scott’s Branch, South Carolina to Egypt; from Newport, Vermont to Ghana, and myriad places in between. Thirteen individual teachers and five teams of two teachers each will depart this summer for international travel and study and from that experience, develop a place-based learning curriculum for use in their own classrooms.

The rural teachers who will be traveling to international destinations this summer as Rural Trust Global Fellows will without a doubt bring back engaging photos, artifacts, and other memorabilia. They will have made connections to worldwide places that will help them strengthen their students’ own connections to their communities by linking knowledge and experience. But well before those phases of the process, the Global Fellows undertook the important first step of creating a plan and framework for their travel that would be relevant to their students’ learning.

Rural Policy Matters and other Rural Trust publications are introducing our readers to this diverse group of dedicated and creative rural educators. We will also be following the Fellows throughout their travels this summer and will be updating you on their exciting experiences along the way. Stay tuned!

A team of teachers from Gunnison High School in Gunnison, Colorado, will be “walking in Ghandi’s shoes” this summer thanks to their Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellowships. Marta Coleman, an English teacher, and Gloria Waggoner, a social studies teacher, are going to be studying social movements in India, home to one of the most influential non-violent civil disobedience movements in history. Waggoner says, “Our Social Studies Department just went through an entire revamp of curriculum and standards. I want to strengthen my skills and background for my new course, World History: The Human Experience, which includes units on social movements, theories and practices of peace and justice and human rights advocacy. Coleman says she was inspired to chart her Fellowship travels by the work of Ghandi.

Waggoner adds, “As we finalized our trip to India, we have been able to book a tour of Dharavi. Some of our payment to our guide goes to helping schools, hospitals, etc., in Dharavi. We have asked students and staff at our school to load two suitcases (which are now over-full) of new school supplies, which we will take to Dharavi and deliver to the school children on our visit. Cool stuff!” (Editor’s note: Dharavi is the Indian location used in the film "Slumdog Millionaire.") Capping off an exciting time, Dr. Coleman recently learned she won Teacher of the Year honors in her district. You can follow Waggoner and Coleman’s journeys on their travel blog:

A notable result of participation in the Global Teacher Fellowship Program is the outreach by program alumni to recruit other potential Fellows. Gary Johnson is a language arts/humanities teacher at North Country Union High School in Newport, Vermont, and is taking an immersion trip to Ghana. He reports, “I applied for the Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellowship as it had been highly recommended to me by three other recipients in my school.” His project involves creating global connections between his students and students in schools around the world. He says, “The grant will help me to establish personal relationships with educators and students in Ghana, as I have done in other countries. It will also help me to examine cultural and educational realities of the lives of students in Ghana. I want to use the model we hope to create with EVCO (Entire Village Computer Organization) in Ghana to create a dialogue and a curriculum (including photography, creative writing, literature and sociological studies) that will enrich all the students involved.”

Johnson is well-traveled and has a truly worldwide vision for linking students and communities: “On a larger perspective, I am working to connect students in South Africa, Mexico, Haiti, Costa Rica, Eleuthera, Cameroon, etc. where I have visited and I have contacts with teachers and mentors. I hope to expand the network to eventually create a scholarship foundation, but that is in the future.”

Dana Brettell, a Spanish teacher from Thetford, Vermont, who is traveling with her colleague to Buenos Aires says the Global Fellowship is not only providing the opportunity to work on a visual arts-language project but also an opportunity to visit a different Hispanic culture. She says she often travels with her students, and has visited Europe, Mexico, and Central America many times, but this opportunity to travel with adults is rare. She says, “Upon receiving the award I remember feeling surprised and delighted. I can only imagine how this experience will broaden my knowledge of the Hispanic and art world. I am already thinking of ideas for implementation for next year.”

Annie Gibvac is a rural educator who wears many hats at Miller’s Run, a K–8 school in Sheffield, Vermont: she teaches three separate preparations. Her fellowship will take her to Kamagap Primary School in Kenya, where she will spend three weeks. She says, “As a visual and dance arts teacher and as an English as a Second Language teacher, learning about different cultures is part of what I do for both of my jobs. I chose to travel to a rural school in Kenya for three reasons: I wanted to share the art, music, and dance of another rural culture with my classes; I wanted to share the experience of volunteering in an international setting; and I wanted to experience being in the same environment as the African animals which we draw each year.”

David and Joy-Lyn McDonald are a science-teaching, husband-and-wife team from Sidney High School in Sidney, Montana. They will be traveling to Japan this summer and plan to integrate Japanese culture, crafts, and specifically the Japanese sword into their chemistry, physics, and physical science classes. They say, “We selected Japan to find the metal patina and cloth dying information that we can bring into the classroom.” They were inspired to apply for the Fellowship because “As teachers, generally we are looking for learning opportunities for the summer and projects to bring back to the classroom. We are usually selecting among projects that someone else has designed and planned. This Fellowship offered an opportunity to choose projects of interest to us.”

Bon voyage, all!

Read more:

Details about the Rural School and Community Trust’s Global Teacher Fellowship program:

Jennie Young, another Rural Trust Global Fellow and elementary school math teacher at Northwestern R-1 in Mendon, Missouri will travel to Thailand this summer. She says, “I was especially attracted to Thailand because of its diversity. The people seem to welcome visitors which I hope makes my experience there all the more special. I couldn't believe it when I opened my award letter and found that I had received the fellowship grant.” Young was recently profiled by the Center for Midwestern Initiatives of the Rural School and Community Trust:

Read more from the May 2012 Rural Policy Matters.