Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dear Followers of the ITE 2014 Blog:
Since last October when acceptance e-mails went out, we have been looking forward to this experience.  The 15 students that were selected worked to raise funds, registered for a three hour class, and started the preparation for the trip.  They learned about the culture, history, geography, customs, government, and schools in Belize.  We determined that our focus this year would be mathematics education.  Our partner schools in Belize sent us a list of topics, and our lesson plan preparation began.  The CEHD students worked hard to develop appropriate lessons and use of the new mathematics manipulatives that we would leave behind. The opportunities to embrace another culture, interact with their community, and teach side-by-side with seasoned teachers in challenging conditions are invaluable experiences that have changed us all. Without question, this experience has inspired us to be better teachers, better people.

First, we would like to thank the families and parents for entrusting your children/wives/girlfriends to us. We would also like to thank all of the students that participated. You are each very special and dear to us. We could not have been more proud of how you embraced this experience. You should be proud of the difference you made in each of the lives you touched.

To Dean Haselton and the College of Education and Human Development Faculty, thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the International Teaching Experience in Belize. We are very proud of how each and every one of our students and leaders represented the University, not only through their knowledge and teaching skills, but also with the professionalism in how they conducted themselves throughout the trip.

A special thanks to Dr. Todd Brown, Julie Stout, and Kristin Harbour for providing leadership and support on this trip.  They were amazing in their ability to support the students and take care of the logistics for a large group traveling around the country.  The leadership team also gathered resources and supplied needed to teach the lessons.  A huge thanks to Dr. Karen Karp and Sarah Moore at ETA for providing much needed mathematics manipulatives and resources for the classrooms in which we worked.

The leadership, our remarkable students, and talent exhibited are something for us all to celebrate.

With gratitude,
Nina Beck and Margaret Pentecost

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hi Everyone!

This has been such an amazing week! It’s hard to put into words how fortunate I feel to have experienced this culture and the wonderful people. I’ve been working in San Pablo all week and have fallen in love with the children. Being there every day and seeing their smiles make all the hard work leading up to this trip worth it. Yesterday we were fortunate enough to participate in a professional development with the teachers. We shared behavior management strategies (my speciality!) and how to use the many math manipulatives we brought for them. I’ve learned a lot from observing the teachers but the most important thing I’ve seen was how much the teachers genuinely care for each and every child in their class. One thing that stuck with me was something I heard today. In a meeting with the teachers, one teacher said, “San Pablo is the forgotten place.” I don’t agree with that. I know personally I will NEVER forget San Pablo, the teachers, the culture, and the amazing smiles of the children.
See everyone soon!
Emily Harned

Hello friends and family!
Coming into this trip, I had extremely high expectations for what I would take away from this experience. I can honestly say that this week at Red Bank has been more than I ever imagined that it would be! I’ve learned more than I could ever explain from the teachers and students I was able to interact with. The teachers in Red Bank displayed such dedication to their students and to their jobs. It was a great feeling to be greeted by such excitement from the students every day and seeing how attached they became to us in such a short period of time made it heart breaking to leave.

Being immersed in such a different culture made me realize a lot about myself and my pre-conceived ideas about my career path as a teacher. There are so many things that we have at home, that we consider “basic necessities,” that we take for granted each day that they live every day contently without. When we walk into classrooms at home we just assume that our students have come to school with the basic supplies that they need for their school day, but at Red Bank I had to continuously check to make sure that I could supply my students with what they needed for my lessons. It’s extremely humbling.

Throughout the week I taught math lessons to two Standard 1 (grade three) classrooms on addition and subtraction of fractions and completed diagnostic interviews with my students. It was such a great feeling to see how excited the students got when using the manipulatives during the lessons and interviews. Also, being able to assess my students throughout the week allowed me to see how much they were gaining from the lessons I was teaching in their classrooms. I loved being able to see the progress that they were making because of what I had them working with in their classrooms!

I’m so thankful and feel so blessed to have been given this opportunity! This trip has been the epitome of a “once in a lifetime experience.” Being immersed in such a different culture and being away from home made this one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I can honestly say that what I was able to experience at the Red Bank schools this past week also made it the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life this far!

-          Ashley Vinton

Hello friends and family.  Today was our last day teaching, and I was not expecting it to be so sad. My lessons went well and then I got to play outside with the students and talk to them and the teachers. When it was time to go everyone got sad and started to tear up. Even though we only spent 5 days with these teachers and students, we learned so much and became attached to them. Quite a few of us were thinking about how we could sneak take a certain student home with us. After we got over the culture shock of the trip, we all fell in love with the students and their teachers. There are a lot of ways our cultures are different but because of that we learned so much more about their culture and teaching students that are different than you. By the end of the week we were all sad to go.
Miranda Geyer

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Reflection on Week at San Pablo

Family and Friends,

First of all, I have to say that I feel so incredibly blessed to have this opportunity, and I have to thank all of those who have worked to make this trip a reality. This whole week has been somewhat surreal, but it has been one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life.

Teaching at San Pablo has been challenging, but working with the teachers and children has been incredible. The simple things we take for granted everyday are considered a luxury here. The struggles these people encounter are unimaginable until you witness it firsthand, but they still manage to have smiles on their faces. The teachers at San Pablo wade across the river to teach each day; if that doesn’t display passion and dedication, then I don’t what does. The children here are some of the brightest and quick-witted I have encountered. They are beyond tough because they have to be, but still yet, they are so kind and sweet. All they really want is love, attention, and affection, and they have such a thirst for knowledge. I have learned that kids will be kids, no matter where they are.

Today, there was a team of medical workers in the San Pablo village. The children did not attend school, so they could be seen by doctors. We took advantage of this time and had a professional development meeting with the teachers, which was very beneficial to both sides. We were able to discuss classroom management techniques and ways to use the math manipulatives we will be leaving for them and their students. I know I am taking away so much more than what I am leaving them, but I hope to have left even just the tiniest impression on the teachers and students.

Above all, I have learned the power of resilience. No matter how adverse the conditions, everything should be for the children, and the teachers of San Pablo have demonstrated this. I have been truly touched and inspired, and I know my life will be forever changed.
Casey Muncy




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Red Bank - Day 2

Hello Family and Friends,
Since the moment I arrived at the Red Bank Schools in Belize, I have learned more than I ever imagined. The teachers and students here have been extremely welcoming. I came here expecting to teach the students and they have taught me more than I ever thought possible. They are happy regardless of their situation, and they are excited to learn and engage with manipulatives.  The best part of this whole trip is seeing the smile on their faces when they finally understand a concept. That smile that they give me melts my heart. I am excited to engage with the students and teachers for the rest of the week, and I know that leaving them will be difficult. I feel like I am part of the Red Bank School. Being a teacher here in Belize helps me to realize that lesson plans are never concrete. Conceptual understanding is essential, and that students feed off positive reinforcement. After this teaching experience, I feel that I can take on any experience that comes my way. This trip has changed me as a person, and I will never look at life and teaching in the same way.
Sarah Richard





San Pablo - Day 2

Hello friends and family, the past few days have been a great life changing experience. There have been moments and places that I will never forget. This trip to Belize is my first time out of the country, and it has been eye opening experience. My favorite part of this trip so far has been seeing a little girl’s face light up and smile when she finally knew how to do a problem that I was helping her with. This trip has made me realize that the small experiences in my classroom will be the most rewarding sometimes.

 Today I was able to walk a student to his house with another UofL student and tour the village of San Pablo after school. The children were so happy to show us where they live and the river they wash their clothes in. I cannot wait for the rest of this trip and to share all of my experiences when I get home!!
Casey Cochran

Greetings friends and family!
This experience has been so amazing so far. Between our cultural excursions and teaching in the school, I feel very much a part of this community! San Pablo is a great school and I am learning so much about the students and teachers. It’s encouraging to know that we get along so well. Today, I got to spend a lot more time getting to know the students, which I absolutely loved. They are so curious about our presence in their classroom, and I have loved sharing my life with them these last few days! I am so excited to love on these kiddos a little more the rest of this week.

I have loved the conversations with my team members as well, we have had so much fun with each other so far! I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of this trip. I already feel like I’ve learned so much about myself, but also a little snapshot into the culture of Belize and more specifically San Pablo. I can’t wait for more great memories these next few days!

Angela Gitschier