Local students rarely have the opportunity to experience the world outside of their community. With Kent State University sponsoring 16 international students, the rarity has now become a reality.
Kent State University’s Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education is hosting 16 visiting scholars from 11 countries during the spring semester. The scholars are from Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Philippines and South Africa.
“This program is called International Leaders in Education,” says Mrinali Chowdhary, who hails from India. “It provides teachers from different countries the opportunity to audit classes and attend a specialized seminar at a U.S. university in the field of education, as well as participate in a practical internship at a U.S. school.”
As a collaborative effort with Kent State University, public schools in Aurora, Hudson, Ravenna, Stow-Munroe Falls and Streetsboro, along with Spring Garden Waldorf private school in Akron, have placed the visiting scholars in classrooms from January to the end of May. The 16 scholars will observe American education and will have the ability to teach in the classrooms.
The experience has been filled with learning for Chowdhary.
“I've come to know about American culture and how different it is from my culture. We also have similarities,” Chowdhary says. “I will always have memories of the place and how hospitable and helpful the Americans are. I'll truly miss them.”
Teachers at the local schools are also being affected by the international teachers.
“I have already seen that this program has benefited me in several ways as a teacher. The first way I have benefited is in the way I have been received by the international teachers,” says Adam Kuhn, a teacher at Spring Garden Waldorf School who participated in the program.
“I have been given the opportunity to share my vision of education with two extremely skilled and brilliant teachers, both of whom treat me as a peer. I am passionate about how I can help children to realize their full potential, and I see that these teachers are as well,” Kuhn says.
Students have embraced international teachers in their classrooms. The visiting teachers learn about the learning styles of American students, and students, in turn, can gain insight into another country and culture.
“Both have given a short presentation to the students about their country and have fielded many questions about the people of that country. The teachers have also simply talked with the students in a slightly more informal way to see who these American students are,” Kuhn says.
“Students in my class have been very welcoming and comfortable with the international teachers, eating lunch with them, speaking with them during breaks and accepting them into the fold.”
Students and local communities are also benefiting from the international teachers influence.
“We can share our vision of teaching with the rest of the communities that are hosting these teachers, share with the international teachers, and we can connect with other dedicated teachers that find international learning to be valuable,” Kuhn says. “The parents of our school are very excited to talk to the teachers, and I sense a form of respect for the international teachers that is very deep and real.”
The experience of being taught by international teachers can lead to a diplomatic future.
“When an eighth grader begins to think about other students in the world — besides themselves or their friends — then a kind of imaginative inquiry can begin,” Kuhn says. “This is the beginning of an adolescent's ability to have empathy for others, leading to compassion in the future.”
During their time at Kent State, the scholars also have the opportunity to attend graduate-level courses and participate in other campus activities to help contribute to the improvement of teaching in their countries, as well as adding to the internationalization efforts for Ohio education.
This opportunity is made possible by a U.S. State Department grant through the International Leadership in Education Program. Through this grant, 86 scholars from all over the world have been placed at five U.S. universities, including Kent State.
“This program has opened the hearts and minds of many here in our community who would normally not have the opportunity to have international teachers of this caliber in our school,” Kuhn says. “This program has allowed my students to step outside of themselves and realize that there are other people on this planet who are worth noticing, others who are wonderful, interesting and rich with culture.”