Charged with the belief that teachers are the key factor in student success, two local teachers are looking forward to traveling across the world and learning strategies to share with their peers.
Juandalynn Ray, who is the teacher advancement coordinator for Clinton City Schools, and Robert Smith, the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) college readiness program teacher at Union Middle School (UMS), will spend 20 days traveling throughout China later this month as part of the Go Global NC’s Global Teachers development program.
Ray and Smith will be among 35 teachers from across North Carolina making the 7,000-mile journey to learn about the Chinese culture and how educators work to make their students some of the most successful in the world.
“I am interested in learning more about China’s teacher education program,” Ray said about her once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Teachers are a key factor in the success of student achievement and the school at large. China has a very successful student achievement rate and I am excited about learning ideas and strategies that I can bring back to help teachers across the state.”
According to Nicholas Rau, director of education and training for Go Global NC, Global teachers participants understand this exceptional experience will allow them to return to North Carolina with new knowledge and skills that will benefit the students in their classrooms.
“Our Global Teachers program provides comprehensive domestic workshops and an immersion experience in a different country every year,” Rau said. “We select a country that has a significant impact in North Carolina and the world or that is known for best practices, especially in education, that we can study and apply in our state. In addition to learning about the country and culture, we will focus on technology, environmental sustainability, and unique approaches to education that may give teachers new ideas or solutions that would be useful in their own classrooms, schools, or districts.”
As the teacher advancement coordinator for Clinton City Schools, Ray said she plans to share her knowledge gained during her experience with the staff and students. CCS partners with Participate Learning to provide a common framework with the Global Schools Initiative, and Ray’s trip to China will give her the opportunity to expand on global learning.
As part of the program, participants will gain insight into the country’s history, culture, and physical environment, learn about conservation efforts to protect rare animals and environment, explore how China’s educators use technology in their classrooms, and study alternative education as a method of building a ready workforce.
“I will be co-teaching and visiting various schools across China,” Ray explained. “Traveling abroad and observing the teaching profession in different cultures will allow me to reflect on the teaching practices and styles that I encourage our teachers to use in their classrooms. Our classrooms are not made up of the same kids and our classrooms today reflect a global society and our teaching practices must do the same.”
Smith is grateful for receiving the grant. His plan is to go into classrooms and see how technology is used to empower the students. With a population of more than a billion people, education is quite a task. He also noted that students in China receive higher scores on standardized tests.
“It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Smith said.
During his research, Smith discovered that educators in China use artificial intelligence to design lesson plans catered to the individual need of student.
“That’s why they’re able to reach such a large population, cost effectively,” he said. “The computers are really driving some of their instruction and I know some schools are going to a one-to-one program. I would like to see how we can use our technology more effectively and more efficiently from their model. I’m not saying their model is the best, but I would like to see what they’re doing.”
Smith’s upcoming journey to China was made possible through the local Simple Gifts program, which provides grants and funding for teachers and students have experiences beyond the classroom.
“I can’t even find the words to show how thankful I am,” he said while showing gratitude to Margaret Turlington, coordinator for Simple Gifts.
In addition to preparing students for college opportunities through the AVID, Smith taught social studies in middle school for 20 years. Part of the curriculum focused on China. He’s now looking forward to seeing what he taught students in books and visiting places such as Beijing, the country’s capital and the Himalayas.
“We are excited for Mr. Smith and look forward to him coming back next fall and sharing his insights of the Chinese educational system,” said UMS Principal Dr. Theresa Melenas. “This insight will help him and other teachers at UMS become more globally aware and hopefully incorporate this awareness more fully into their lessons.”
”I plan to share the experiences and best practices that I participate in while observing and interacting with the Chinese educational system and citizens with my colleagues in the Union District and Sampson County Schools,” Smith stated. “This experience will make our teachers and students more culturally and globally aware, and serve to better our rural county as we move towards global interconnectedness during the 21st century.”
Go Global NC’s Global Teachers program, founded in 1991, provides professional development to K-12 teachers from across North Carolina through an in-depth learning experience about the history, culture, and environment of other countries.
Programs begin with an intense orientation workshop, followed by an approximate 10-day international immersive learning experience abroad. Several weeks after travel, Go Global NC leads an action-planning workshop, which creates a platform for collaboration and creativity to ensure teachers are prepared to share their global experiences in their own North Carolina classrooms.
Teachers from all grade levels and all subject areas use their new global experiences to ignite an interest in global engagement and cooperation among their students and in their communities.