By JOE LUETKEHANS – In 2018, the world continues to become more connected requiring people to be more culturally aware. One of the best ways to do this is through educational programs such as the International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP) with IUP.
This US Department of State-funded educational and cultural exchange program allows for experienced teachers, called fellows, from countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt to spend several months in the United States at schools like IHS. By being paired with American teachers, the program hopes that both parties will be able to learn from each other and share teaching practices and cultural experiences.
IUP has hosted ILEP fellows for the past three years and has been able to provide the connection to IHS. As a part of IHS’s partnership with IUP, IHS Principal Wade McElheny continues his support of the program. Retired IHS social studies teacher Mike Rieg facilitates the field experience for the Fellows and has helped acclimate the teachers to their new environment in the past weeks. The program brought 16 Fellows who arrived in Indiana on January 6th and spent their first day at IHS on January 15.
Students will find these teachers in their classes on Wednesdays for the next several weeks until they leave Indiana in March. The teachers will then participate in a similar weekly program at Brashear High School in Pittsburgh before leaving in May. In addition to taking their own notes on how the American host teachers teach their classes, these guest teachers will have a chance to teach lessons of their own, both in their field and about their home culture.
Sophomore Jorie Meil, who has four classes with ILEP fellows, believes that IHS students have a lot to gain from the experience. “I hope that as students, it helps us to learn and understand other cultures and ways of life.” Meil is a student in Mr. Waryck’s Biology class, which hosts Jerry Owuori of Kenya. In order to tie together a cultural and educational experience, Owuori gave a presentation to the class about the effects of malaria on his hometown and family. Meil adds, “…it was really interesting, and it gave us insight into what life was like for people who have to worry about that. It’s not something I’ve ever had to think about.”
Three teachers who have been staying in Indiana for several weeks with the program, Edgar Arciga and Mae Antonnette Ticar of the Philippines, and Stelly Gidion of Indonesia (partnered with math teachers Steve Cochran and Malinda Oesterling, and social studies teacher Parker Dunlap specifically), shared several of the key differences they have seen since leaving their home countries. Aside from seeing snow for the first time, Fellows have observed stark contrasts in education programs over the past several weeks.
“I wanted to adapt strategies and spread them to fellow teachers. I don’t want to follow them exactly, but to modify them and make them the best for my community,” said Arciga, who is especially interested in the possibilities that free on and offline software can offer for schools like his own. “[The Philippines] is trying its best to equip schools and has just started, but since the government handles everything and our schooling system is centralized, it can be hard to provide resources.”
IHS’s “one to one” program, which allows every student to have their own personal Chromebook, is considerably rarer in countries without as much government funding for public schools. While private schools in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia may be able to offer their students such technology, public school teachers are often more limited with their options. Because of this, Arciga believes that teachers in countries such as his must work to overcome a lack of advanced resources.
Ticar takes a similar stance on technological advancement in schools stating, “I would like to take away the best teaching practices, more techniques… My community will practice teaching the traditional way, but tech can expand learning in many ways.” Another key difference that Ticar has pointed out is the attitude of teachers at IHS.
Ticar is stationed with Oesterling and reported that she highly appreciates the enthusiasm and passion that her host and other IHS teachers have shown towards their jobs since her arrival. “…I want to share it and bring it home,” adds Ticar. Oesterling adds, “The ILEP teachers afford our students the opportunity to have experiences with culture and education in other countries.”
Gidion, visiting from Indonesia, sees new opportunities in the program. “I want to measure myself and compare myself to the American teachers. If I like their teaching style, I will try to adapt my own… I’m always paying attention.” Most visiting fellows are eager to experience how teaching and education can transcend culture. With the combination of teaching styles that the program promotes, both American and visiting teachers will be able to learn from each other and perhaps expand how they teach their classes.
When not attending IHS and sharing experiences with their host teachers, the fellows are enrolled in several classes at IUP and take the time to make other cultural and educational excursions. As a group, the visitors have taken trips to Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh, visited museums, and taken trips to other schools in the area such as East Pike Elementary. Many Fellows of the program see the cultural enrichment as parallel with the educational experiences in terms of importance.
IUP and IHS remain excited to share the culture and educational system of the United States with every group of Fellows. Before they leave in a few weeks, students should be sure to ask them whatever questions they may have and should take the opportunity to learn everything they can about countries, cultures, and languages. To the visiting fellows: Welcome, Bienvenue, Maligayang Pagdating, أهلا بك, Selamat Datang, স্বাগত, Bem Vinda, and Kuwakaribisha!
*This article was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.
[Photo courtesy of IUP]
Photo Caption: This year’s visiting ILEP teachers will be working with IUP and area high schools until May.