GREENSBORO, NC (WGHP) — Deanna Wynn loves bringing the wonder of life sciences to her students in the Early College at UNC-Greensboro.
This summer, however, she will find her role reversed when she and four of her colleagues switch from being educators to students. They’re heading to Morocco as Fulbright scholars!
“As teachers, as educators, we are lifelong learners and we want to encourage our students to continue to be lifelong learners,” says Wynn. “It doesn’t, it doesn’t stop once you start your career, that this is a continual thing, and this will be life-changing for us.”
The trip is a month-long program of professional development like they’ve never had before.
“Being able to be immersed in a culture is, is an amazing opportunity for us. It takes us beyond just being tourists. We will have survival Arabic lessons as far as asking basic things, ‘where’s the bathroom,’ how do we order on a menu, how to greet other Moroccans. And so that’s going to be exciting to be able to immerse ourselves and go beyond the tourist site to be able to actually live and be a part of the culture is what is what’s most exciting for me.”
Janis Antonek knows how beneficial it can be. As a foreign language teacher, she has won a Fulbright grant before and has traveled a lot.
“Nothing replaces learning in context. So, you can study about a country or a culture or a place, but when you’re actually in the context, it’s a very, very different, situation. And I think it is much more beneficial,” Antonek says.
Each of the educators is from a different discipline and they hope traveling together will give them a much more rounded viewpoint.
“I am going to focus on climate change and how it is affecting their crops, as well as the textiles that they use for their clothing,” Wynn says. “We are focused on women and democracy, and I want to see how Moroccan women are becoming part of that political climate.”
Antonek will be learning a new language herself.
“Since I teach Spanish, it’s easy to forget how hard it can be to learn a language. So the fact that I’m going to be learning Arabic, and we have some students in our school who speak Arabic who are willing to help me learn. And it gives me empathy, reminds me of how hard it can be to learn a language.”
April Dunovant is looking for the more social sciences aspect. As a Social Studies teacher she says she knows, it will be a little different. “A learning experience for me about education, Moroccan and women in democracy. How does that fit in a global aspect? How can I bring that to my classroom? Cause I teach civics and economics or civic literacy now I teach African American history in AP US history and how can I fit that idea of what the place of women and what women do here in the United States.”
Keisha Brown is the principal, and her focus will be more from an administration point of view.
“We have a lot of students of Muslim faith and students that come from Morocco and in different parts of Africa. And so now I get to look at it from a school leader’s perspective, and then perhaps some curriculum development, some school programming, some partnerships actually with the school district in developing curriculum beyond the classroom,” said Brown.
All of the educators agree this will be the experience of a lifetime.
“I think it just opened my eyes to how the world works in so many different ways and bringing that worldly view to the classroom will definitely help me become a better teacher in my class. And bringing in the curriculum, kids love to hear what you’re doing and what’s going on and your experiences too. So bringing that real-life experience in the classroom helps with connections and relationship building with students too,” Dunovant said.
Which makes the classroom experience better for everyone.