Education students teach overseas

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — Students in the College of Education had a unique opportunity to test their academic achievements outside of the country in one of NIU’s premier programs.

Educate Global, which was offered over the summer, was designed to provide undergraduate and graduate College of Education students with a cross-cultural experience teaching English to Taiwanese and Chinese students.

“There were a lot of new opportunities bundled all into one in this experience,” said Jodi Lampi, assistant professor and director for Academic Literacy and Learning.

The program placed 27 students in Taiwan’s Miaoli County Government Education Bureau Schools for four weeks and 10 students in China’s Beijing Royal School for six weeks during summer break. Teacher candidates taught school-aged children English during “boot camps,” said David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs.

Walker said the Taiwanese and Chinese students had their English proficiency tested before the bootcamps began, but students with various levels of comprehension and literacy entered the program.

Lampi, who worked at the site in China, said it was a unique teaching opportunity for the teacher candidates since it gave students an authentic cultural experience and allowed them to co-teach, meaning the teacher candidates were able to administer lessons with a partner.

“When someone becomes a teacher, it’s actually several years before they co-teach, if even,” Lampi said. “So for an opportunity for pre-service teachers to come in and not only teach, but right away have an opportunity to co-teach is sort of unheard of.”

Lampi said local Chinese high school students acted as teaching assistants to the teacher candidates.

From running classrooms to developing lesson plans, Walker said he was able to observe NIU students applying what they’ve learned into practice.

“I really do believe, viewing all the students numerous times, that you could really see their progress and their education and skills as a teacher,” Walker said. “You could really start to see that.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, College of Education dean, said she participated in the development of the program because she feels giving students the opportunity to have a cross-cultural teaching experience is important — especially when the program is affordable.

Elish-Piper said allowing teacher candidates to participate in a global experience will help them in their future career because it will not only make them much more prepared and knowledgeable, but will also most likely make them more understanding of those from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

In order to keep the cost down for teacher candidates, Elish-Piper said international partners involved in Educate Global and NIU Foundation donors paid for airfare and room and board.

“We didn’t want any of our teacher candidates, who wanted to participate and who were qualified to participate, to be prevented from doing so because they didn’t have the means,” Elish-Piper said.

James Cohen, assistant professor for literacy education and a faculty member who oversaw teacher candidates in Taiwan, said teacher candidates’ airfare and accommodation expenses were paid for by the government of Taiwan.

Cohen said the co-teaching opportunity in a different country makes them more marketable to potential employers.

“Administrators, [if] they know if you can handle living in another country for a month, teaching in another environment like that under such difficult and non-traditional circumstance,” Cohen said, “they know that you’re going to be able to deal with whatever is giving in a school building here.”

Since this summer was the first run of Educate Global, Walker said the evaluation process will include the faculty members and students involved in the program and will ask for their opinions about things like accommodations, ways students grew as a result of the experience and areas that need improvement.

“We’ll put together an evaluation and a report of the program Educate Global to learn things we can do differently and what we did well, and we’ll go from there,” Walker said.

As for now, it is unknown if the program will reoccur during the summer of 2018, but Elish-Piper said she hopes the program continues to grow.

“Things like this are what makes NIU special,” Cohen said. “The students come back different people. They come back so much more aware of themselves and others, and it’s so much more marketable. That’s what makes NIU so special, especially the College of Education.”