What happens when 23 teachers from 19 different countries come together for six weeks of intensive training? Beliefs shift, culture is exchanged and explored, awareness grows, deep friendships emerge, and lives change.
INTERLINK is proud to have been a part of the Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Fulbright Program hosted by Montana State University in Bozeman in September and October. INTERLINK has been actively involved in serving teachers in this program for the last seven years. This six week program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the International Research and Exchange Board. It brings select middle and secondary teachers to the campuses of seven universities in the United States to develop their skills in pedagogy, leadership, and technology, as well as provides them with field experience in local schools.
The teachers who take part in this program are almost all focused on English language instruction in their home countries, though some teach science, social studies or physics. INTERLINK’s Executive Director, Valley Peters, had the opportunity to teach an English course and a series of educational technology workshops during their six week program. During the INTERLINK classes, the TEA participants gave presentations about their home cultures and explored different cultural constructs to better understand themselves, their fellow teachers, and American culture, In addition to cultural discussions, participants engaged in learner-centered, interactive, and reflective activities that modeled a range of pedagogical approaches. In many English language classrooms around the world, a number of instructors still emphasize grammar rules and rote learning, so we also focus on communicative language teaching. The goal was to not only improve the participants’ language skills, but also to influence their teaching beliefs and practices so that they can apply what they have learned to create dynamic learning experiences for their students.
In the educational technology workshops, TEA participants become familiar with how to use Google documents and folders to organize courses and promote student interaction through these tools. They experience a variety of apps that help them as learners to enhance their speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills. Deeper learning occurs as the participants have opportunities to create their own activities and consider how to apply these tools in their own contexts. We also encourage teachers to evaluate their use of technology and to consider when it makes pedagogical sense to use technology and when it does not.
Participants in this Fulbright program pack a great deal of learning into their time in the U.S. In addition to the INTERLINK classes, they take an English teaching methodologies course, study leadership, and have other workshops to enhance their use of educational technology. They engage with host families who welcome them into their homes and take them on outings in the area. They each design a proposal to carry out a community project that they submit to the local Rotary Club.
We wish them all well as they have returned to their home countries full of new ideas, energy, and enthusiasm for implementing what they have learned during this enriching experience.
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