Mason Educators Train Teachers from 20 Countries

Posted: March 20, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: March 24, 2014 at 6:57 am

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By Colleen Kearney Rich

Mona Abdelgawad Moftah teaches English at El Nasr Boys School in Alexandria, Egypt. Pecos Nanje Mafani teaches history and citizenship at the Bilingual Grammar School Molyko in Buea, Cameroon. For the past 18 years, Vayahoua Diomande has taught English and literature at Lycee Moderne INAGOHI in San Pedro, Cote d’Ivoire.

These teachers were part of a group representing 20 different countries visiting the United States and George Mason University for six weeks this winter as part of a U.S. Department of State grant.

Mason education professor Farnoosh Shahrokhi leads the six-week professional development seminar for teachers from around the globe. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Mason education professor Farnoosh Shahrokhi leads the six-week professional development seminar for teachers from around the globe. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Since 2007, George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) has received Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) grants from the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to provide secondary school teachers from around the globe with professional development opportunities.

CEHD professor Farnoosh Shahrokhi is the lead on the grant. She originally became involved with the State Department program in the mid-2000s. The initial purpose of these programs was to assist newly democratic nations and encourage teacher exchanges. Since then, the program has expanded to include many more countries.

Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Senegal, Turkey and Venezuela were some of the other countries represented by the 2014 TEA fellows.

TEA fellow Silvia talks about her home country with a high school class at Robinson Secondary School. Photo by Evan Cantwell

TEA fellow Letis Baires Pereira talks about her home country, El Salvador, with a class at Robinson Secondary School. Photo by Evan Cantwell

During the six weeks, Shahrokhi and her colleagues provided training in teaching methodologies, curriculum development and education leadership, as well as teaching with technology and English as a second language research, methods and assessment. CEHD professors Supriya Baily, Priscilla Norton, Dawn Hathaway and Beverly Woody worked with Shahrokhi this year.

In addition to participating in short seminars on various topics, each teacher was assigned a teacher partner from a local Fairfax County, Va., public middle or high school — Oakton High School, Westfield High School, Robinson Secondary School or Holmes Middle School — to work with in their classrooms for eight days.

“The [FCPS] teachers in the schools really go out of their way to make the TEA fellows feel welcome,” says Shahrokhi.

Robinson Secondary teacher Ami Photo by Evan Cantwell

Robinson Secondary English teacher Ami Durand (in blue shirt) with the Robinson TEA fellows (from left) Pecos Mafani, Lucio Perez, Silvia Quadarella and Letis Baires Pereira. Photo by Evan Cantwell

During the almost two weeks in the public schools working with their host teacher and interacting with American students, the visiting teachers attended school events like basketball games, wrestling matches and field trips, including ones to Washington, D.C., with their host classes.

“These experiences are priceless for the teachers,” says Shahrokhi. “They really help them to understand the culture and the U.S. school system.”

During their time here, the visiting teachers also traveled as a group to tour a high school and meet with school administrators in rural Frederick County, Va. “This school is often more like the schools where the fellows teach in their home country. It gives them another perspective of the U.S. education system,” says Shahrokhi.

On the weekends, the fellows took tours of Mount Vernon and the Library of Congress and visited Baltimore and Alexandria. They even took a quick shopping trip to the Tysons Corner Center mall and were invited to a few of the faculty members’ homes for meals and to meet more informally.

“It was an absolute delight working with Letis. She was eager to learn about our school environment and enthusiastic about seeing a variety of classes,” says Robinson Secondary teacher Rebecca Berman. “As with most TEA fellows, Letis brought a new perspective to the classroom. Even something as simple as the size of her country and community, compared with Virginia, was new and interesting for my students to learn. This is my fifth year working with a TEA fellow, and each year has been a great experience.”

Write to Colleen Kearney Rich at ckearney@gmu.edu

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