Thirty-seven NIU College of Education students are traveling to teach in Asia this summer, a “business trip” guaranteed to enrich and shape their professional lives in amazing ways.
Part of the college’s experiential Educate and Engage Program, the inaugural Educate Global journey will place NIU students at China’s Beijing Royal School from early July through mid-August or Taiwan’s Miaoli County Government Education Bureau Schools in July.
Huskie travelers depart in late June to teach English as a Foreign Language in summer camp settings to Chinese and Taiwanese pupils in third- through 12th-grades.
Undergraduates on the trip already have completed their first professional semester in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle Level Teaching and Learning or Special Education. Some graduate students in the same licensure programs, or currently holding teaching licenses, also are making the flight to Asia.
And it’s impossible to beat the price: Educate Global covers an amazing package that includes round-trip airfare, room and board and cultural tours.
Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, is excited to visit both sites to see Educate Global travelers in action as they “interact with their students, and embrace all of the cultural opportunities available to them in Taiwan and China.”
“I have long believed that travel is one of the best teachers about diversity, culture and one’s place in the world,” Elish-Piper said.
“Many of our teacher-candidates have not had the opportunity to travel internationally and to see education enacted in other parts of the world,” she added. “The experiences in Taiwan and China will help them understand teaching, learning and themselves as they live and teach in another part of the world.”
NIU students who participate in Educate Global will give themselves a leg up in the job market, said David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs.
Students can apply for the university’s Engage PLUS Academic Transcript Notation, which demonstrates such skills as critical thinking, organization and teamwork to employers and graduate program.
“Our program allows students to become more educated in their disciplines, and engaged outside of the classroom in areas such as experiential learning, hands-on learning, problem-based solving, research and other areas of teaching and learning,” Walker said.
“They’ll look back at this as one of the highlights of their undergraduate or graduate careers,” he added. “I know I did; I traveled to the Soviet Union in the late ’80s, and it really helped set my course later in life. We are helping our students to teach, learn and interact in a broad space.”
Beyond the experience of teaching in a foreign culture, the Educate Global travelers will receive classroom management and instructional coaching by onsite NIU faculty members. They will work with local teaching assistants who help manage students and the language barrier. They will assist with out-of-class activities that culminate in a closing ceremony.
Elementary school campers at the Beijing Royal School will learn conversational English through exploring fairy tales, emotions and the similarities and differences between the United States and China. Teenage campers will develop their English through examining aspects of American culture, including American movies and television shows.
School-age children in Miaoli, meanwhile, will learn American culture and customs, songs and music, science and social studies with a focus on the theme of comic books and superheroes. Each child will develop and write a comic book while learning to speak, read and write in English.
Terry Borg, director of the college’s Office of External and Global Programs, said the engaged-learning initiative opens “a world of opportunity” to students while also benefitting the college, the university and humanity itself.
“Looking at this from the big, big world perspective, the more opportunities that we take part in, where we meet and learn from people from other countries, the more we begin to recognize that we are all the same,” Borg said.
“We have families that we love. We want to learn. We want to achieve. All of these things are the same,” he added. “In an era when we’re concerned about building walls, and you’re either for us or against us, I believe this gives people cause to think that, ‘Maybe I need to be a more critical thinker than my government wants me to be.’ This might create an opportunity for more world peace and understanding.”
NIU’s students already have impressed Borg with “their commitment to be not just good but great educators.”
“Our students are concerned about teaching, and really concerned and excited about the students they’re going to teach. They’re committed to putting together very sound lesson plans based on objectives and standards,” he said. “They’re going to make NIU proud.”
Amor Taylor, a Middle Level Teaching and Leaning major in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, wants to teach in China to “gain the knowledge necessary to view the world from different perspectives.”
“I think that I already view the world in different ways but teaching in China will add to these perspectives,” said Taylor, a native of Chicago.
Amor Taylor and Stephanie Eller
“I also want to teach in China so that I can become a better teacher for my students. The best teacher advocate for students deals with all types of situations,” she added. “Teaching in China will give me another perspective on my students and put me in an environment that allows me to learn how to deal with a variety of students. I think this opportunity as a whole is just a great way to make me a better person, student and teacher.”
Stephanie Eller, a fourth-grade ESL teacher at Emily G. Johns Intermediate School in Plano Community Unit School District 88, expects her Taiwanese campers will teach her something. She graduated in May with her M.S.Ed. in Literacy/ESL from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
“This will be a chance to step into a new dimension of language instruction for me, and allow me to grow my skills as a teacher working with students who do not have a common language background that we can both rely on,” Eller said. “I am excited to not only teach my language to my students in Taiwan, but also hopefully learn from them as well.”
Borg is confident that Taylor, Eller and the 35 others will return with broadened perspectives as they complete unparalleled opportunities to put theory into practice.
Some will find the courage and motivation to seek teaching jobs overseas at international school and U.S. Department of Defense schools, he said. Others will gain a greater realization of the need in Illinois for more English as a Second Language teachers as well as for teachers of English Language Learners.
All, however, will become superior teachers who “will never view their students or this career in the same way that they have before this experience,” Borg said.
“They’re going to understand now what it means when a students doesn’t understand something because they’re going to be in a place where English is not the main language, and they will translate that experience into their future students’ experience,” he said.
“Being away from their homes – flying 15 hours away, thousands of miles away – they are going to know what it means to be an environment that’s very alien to them,” he added. “And when they come back to classrooms in Illinois, they’re going to understand in a first-hand fashion about working with populations that are not indigenous here and how that feels for them.”
Elish-Piper shares Borg’s optimism – and is thrilled to see Educate Global become a reality as well as an incredible differentiator for NIU College of Education students.
“Whether our students plan to teach abroad, to teach in another part of the United States or to return to their hometown and teach,” the dean said, “Educate Global will provide them with a transformational learning experience that will forever change how they think about teaching, learning, language and culture.”