Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Two OU-C education students extend their horizons through international teaching experiences

Megan Patterson
Sharles Thompson



Two Ohio University-Chillicothe early education students will expand their horizons, both literally and figuratively, by teaching in international classrooms this fall. Megan Patterson and Sharles Thompson are both participating in the Ohio University-sponsored Consortium for Overseas Student Teaching (COST) program, which offers teacher candidates the opportunity to live and student-teach abroad in English-speaking classrooms for a semester.

Patterson will be teaching in Costa Rica, while Thompson will pursue her international experience in the Netherlands.

TAKING DIVERSITY FROM CONCEPT TO REALITY

Patterson has been intrigued by others’ culturally-expanding experiences and decided to experience diversity for herself. A Southeastern High School graduate, she will be teaching kindergarten students at Country Day School in Escazu, Costa Rica.

“A lot of things led up to this. My mom does medical mission work and has traveled to central and southern America.  Also, Dr. (Mary Barbara) Trube does a lot of work in China and talks about it often in class, and other teachers have emphasized the importance of diversity. From all of this, I became interested in opportunities to become immersed in another culture, and the only way to do it is to teach globally.”

Patterson looks to grow, both personally and professionally, from this experience.

“Being immersed in another culture makes the whole concept of diversity real and gets me beyond just thinking about other cultures but allows me to indulge in it,” she said. “Also, I hope it sets me apart from others in the job search. I want to stand out when interviewing for jobs. And, once I have my own classroom, it should help me to teach from a global perspective.”

Her Costa Rican experience offers a variety of cultures in itself.

“From what I have researched, it will be a mixture between different types of living conditions,” Patterson said. “Where I am staying is only eight miles from the capital of San Jose, so the luxuries of Walmart and Starbucks are just a little way away. There are also vendors in small markets selling their goods as well as local fruits and vegetables.”

For Patterson, the timing is right for this type of adventure.

“Although I have family here, I do not have anything tying me down, so I want to take advantage of that. I hope this opens up opportunities to travel again in the future.”

OU-C’s education faculty members have been helpful.

“Dr. Trube really encouraged me to try this, as did Dr. (Jamie) Harmount. Both have been very supportive and have always been there to help out.”

SERIES OF CIRCUMSTANCES PAVE PATHWAY TO THE NETHERLANDS

A great deal of serendipity paved Thompson’s upcoming path to the Netherlands. On her first day as a waitress at Lake Hope State Park’s lodge, Frans Doppen, the COST program coordinator, was one of her patrons.

“When he found I was an OU-C student, we got to talking about college and careers, and he said I should check out the COST program,” said Thompson, a Vinton County High School graduate. “I kept thinking about it, a couple of years went by, doors kept opening, and here I am.”

As a result of Thompson’s interest and those opening doors of opportunity, she will be teaching at the De Klinker school in Oud-Bijerland, the Netherlands, this fall.

“I have always wanted to do something like this, but I never imagined myself, being from Vinton County, would have this opportunity and it would all begin with serving tables,” she said.

Thompson looks for this experience to give her a new perspective that will benefit her throughout her teaching career by helping her to better connect with students and understand their viewpoints.

“If I can survive in that environment with the language and customs barriers I will face, what child is there I cannot reach?” she said. “Even if I teach in Ohio, there will always be students in the classroom who speak another language, who are from another country or face a similar barrier. If I can get under the surface and see how they learn, that will be my ultimate goal.”

“I feel I will be the one learning although I will be teaching the kids,” Thompson said.

To prepare for the trip, she has been learning the basics of the Dutch language as well as keeping up on current events in Holland. She plans to get the most out of this opportunity.

“I look to visit other countries while in Europe. I want to experience other lifestyles and customs. These are things I can take with me into the classroom wherever I wind up teaching.”

LIFETIME REWARDS

The two globe-trotting future teachers are bound to reap benefits that will extend beyond this fall’s adventures.

“Participating in the COST program will have lifetime benefits for Megan and Sharles,” Trube, professor of education, said  “Their personal, intercultural, academic, and professional experiences will be enhanced and enriched as a result of completing their professional internships (student teaching) abroad. They will have opportunities to increase their understanding of their own cultural values and biases as they learn about the culture of individuals in another country. Sharles and Megan have strong interpersonal skills and I predict both future teachers will be able to make life-long friends as a result of their semester in COST.”

Assistant Professor of Education Jamie Harmount said, “These types of experiences allow the students to bring personal experiences from another country into the classroom and to forge relationships with educators from another country. They also offer the future teachers to view diversity from another perspective and to gain a global view of education they can bring back and share with other educators.”

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