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International educators find answers at Lehigh

For J. Andrew Westerman, teaching advanced placement science in Pakistan means that dealing with security issues--such as guard towers, video surveillance, and a rapid response team--"has become second nature."

Silke Vannatter, special education coordinator in Divonne les Bains, France, has to deal with administrative issues such as a set curriculum and massive strikes at her school.

Although these educators face very different challenges, they both came to Lehigh this summer for The International Education Summer Program, led by Daphne Hobson. The program provides international educators with professional development and advanced degrees.

This year's summer program included 31 teachers, principals, and directors of international schools from 23 different countries—from Colombia to France to Saudi Arabia—to obtain an advanced degree in education and to learn the most current thinking in educational leadership, theories, and practice.

To move closer to these goals, the educators attended intensive masters and doctoral-level classes taught by faculty in Lehigh's College of Education and shared ideas and experiences with each other. As an added bonus, they had a lot of fun.

Gregory Moncada, a principal from South Africa, expressed his satisfaction with the program: "I'm in the process of getting my K-12 certification, and Lehigh offered a flexible, meaningful and very interesting course of study. The program exceeded my expectations, especially in terms of the approach to learning, staff expertise and application to my work here in Johannesburg," he says.

Westerman agreed: "Lehigh offers the perfect fit in its programs for overseas teachers, and consideration has been given for the locations of all the students."

Friendship and fun

During their stay at Lehigh, the international educators also spent valuable time outside of class networking with each other and comparing issues. "I loved meeting with colleagues from other parts of the world, with some similar and some very different issues," Vannatter says. "It was an opportunity to exchange ideas, techniques, and strategies."

The participants also spent part of their time getting to know each other in social settings, such as a Fourth of July barbecue held at Karen Stout's home, regular dinners around town, and trips to an Allentown Ambassador's minor league baseball game, Bethlehem's First Friday, and a variety of historical sites throughout the state.

Westerman says he will cherish the friendships that developed and crossed cultural boundaries among the group.

"Some of my most memorable experiences included the times when all of the cohorts gathered together for classes or social functions," he says. "There is a camaraderie that developed and allowed everyone to relax in an atmosphere that can be quite intense at times … I have made connections with individuals here that I hope will last a lifetime."

And best of all, each of the participants will take the leadership skills, motivation, and vision they gained during the summer program back to their respective countries in hopes of creating a more informed, global, culturally sensitive youth.

Thanks to the International Education Summer Program, an AP science instructor recently returned to Pakistan inspired, armed with methods to motivate fellow administrators at his school in Islamabad. A teacher headed back to her school in China with fresh leadership ideas. And a school director flew back to Zambia with an implementation plan for gifted students and fond memories of jogging through the streets of Bethlehem.

--Elizabeth Shimer
elsc@lehigh.edu

Posted on Friday, August 08, 2003

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