Building Bridges: International language teachers study at Appalachian

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    TEA Fellows participate in community service the last weekend of their six-week visit by helping at non-profit F.A.R.M. Cafe in downtown Boone.

Appalachian State University was one of four U.S. universities selected to implement the Teaching Excellence & Achievement Program in fall 2012, funded by a $180,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State. The program brought 21 teachers from 17 countries to campus to develop their expertise in the teaching of English as a foreign language.

The program included four weeks of intensive training with 17 Appalachian professors in teaching methodologies, lesson planning, teaching strategies, teacher leadership, assessment and the integration of technology into teaching. Then, each TEA Fellow spent two weeks engaging with teachers and students in one of nine partner schools in Alleghany, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and Wilkes counties.

Helio Mauricio Alfaro Mendoza of Nicaragua said learning how to make education materials on a computer was among the best information he learned while a TEA Fellow. An English teacher in grades 7 to 11 at a school near the capital city of Managua, he bought his first laptop during the TEA program and looks forward to using it to improve his teaching.

"Learning English is important because my students will have a better chance of getting a job... This was a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and the education systems in these countries. They are all different with different teaching styles and different teaching beliefs," he said.

Sona Manukyan of Armenia said she benefitted from the program's cross-cultural communication. "This gave me this opportunity to get updated in the 21st century skills set. I look forward to sharing everything I learned with my peers, my students and my community. I'm sure when I go back, all I've learned will push me forward in my career," she said.

"This program is remarkable because it benefits everyone," said Dr. Lori Gonzalez, Appalachian's provost. "Participants contribute to our internationalization efforts through the interaction with students, faculty and staff. Our local schools benefitted from their presence, as the fellows' instruction helped those students learn about cultures and countries different from their own."

On the impact of their visit:

"I applied for the program because I wanted to learn more about the U.S. people and their educational system. Many people in Egypt think the U.S. people hate us, but I can correct this idea in my students... I have learned there is a big difference between U.S. people and the U.S. government and the U.S. media." - high school English teacher Mohamed Sinoussy of Egypt

"These teachers are so happy to be here. As leaders, we can make a difference in our countries because of the knowledge we have learned here." - English teacher Yarielis Garcia Montenegro of Panama

"This gives our children the chance to see other parts of the world. You can't replace the widening and opening of minds you get by having someone from another country come to our classroom." - English teacher Cathy MacDonald of Lenoir, who hosted TEA Fellow Yarielis Garcia Montenegro of Panama

"I learned a great deal from her. I learned there are a lot of different ways to teach in a classroom, and she revitalized me as a teacher... My students willingly and excitedly participated in everything she did." - English teacher Grayson Beane of Caldwell Career Center, who hosted TEA Fellow Sona Manukyan of Armenia

"While working with the TEA teachers, I helped them find resources in the library. I was able to practice my language skills with one of the teachers who speaks Spanish... Simply being with these people has shown me that language is such an incredible and unique tool that we take for granted. I realized that I want to always be someone who strives to unite communities through language skills." - Celeste Caton, a theatre education and Spanish double major who works in Belk Library and Information Commons

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