Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

International Partnerships for Professional Development

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

International Partnerships for Professional Development

Article excerpt

International partnerships are established in many ways and can enrich the lives of educators in ways that stretch beyond the traditional professional development programs offered at a local, state, or national level. Relationships develop for a lifetime of learning, and these connections open one's heart and mind to new cultures, customs, curriculum, and methods of teaching. New challenges expand and sharpen one's senses. The author shares two experiences that have had an overwhelming impact not only on her personal life, but on her professional life as well. Come along for a journey to two continents and see how international partnerships have increased professional growth in two different ways.

Introduction

Experiencing and understanding of another culture or country can evolve in more than one way. An educator may join a structured, grass-roots program that expects the individual to give something to the community. Alternately one may participate in an informal exchange where friendship and personal acquaintance are the keys. Both types of experiences can lead to tremendous personal and professional growth.

A Grass-roots Program: Giving Back to Communities in Zambia and the United States

When I found myself in a four-room, cinderblock school at the crossroads of compounds (neighborhoods) Mtendere, Kalikiliki, and Valley View just outside of Lusaka, Zambia, I kept reminding myself that this experience was not only helping the children at Shine Zambia Reading Academy but was also guiding my own path of professional development. I grew personally and as an educator as I faced new challenges each day and struggled to make sense of the poverty, illiteracy, and the third-world environment that surrounded me. Indeed, as a 34-year veteran in education, I know I have learned the most in terms of professional development when I have ventured outside the walls of my classroom and boundaries of my community to find partnerships, whether they are statewide, national, or international in scope.

My work at Shine was part of The A to ? Literacy Movement (www.atozliteracy.org). A nonprofit organization started by my friend and colleague in District #47, Mai Keenan, A to ? Literacy has become an inspirational component of my teaching. With a mission to improve the lives of impoverished children through literacy development, the organization ships books to classrooms and libraries in Zambia, trains and provides instruction for teachers at partner organizations and schools in Zambia, funds the yearly salaries of two teachers, and provides school lunches for 120 children for 6 months per year. Starting small but expanding each year, A to ? makes a difference in the lives of people in Zambia, but the partnership impacts the lives of those who work with A to ? as well.

What made the critical difference for me in this partnership? The children and teachers with whom we came into contact were incredible. Upon arrival at school the first day, we were greeted with a magical singing performance: the sounds of beautiful voices lifted up in welcome and love. My learning began with those voices.

Everyone's enthusiasm for learning was evident, and the smiles that greeted us each and every day were infectious. Watching the excitement of children using new colored pencils or holding a book in their hands for the first time was an eye-opener for me, knowing that my own students back in the United States take so much for granted. Another exciting moment was when students of all ages practically climbed into my lap as I read to them and pulled out small finger puppets of savannah animals. My passion for teaching ignited with a renewed joy! Day after day, child after child, adult after adult, I was learning from them as much as they were learning from me.

Teacher Lyson, one of three full-time teachers at Shine in 2010, had been illiterate until he was 12 years old. At that point, he went to Grade 1, and now, as a late 20-somethingyear old, he was teaching students at Shine. …

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