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Kent State program introduces area students to world culture and benefits students globally

IMAGE: The 16 international scholars (pictured at Rootstown High School) are from Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Philippines and South Africa.

During the spring semester, Kent State University's Gerald H. Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, part of the College of Education, Health, and Human Services (EHHS),hosted 16 visiting scholars as part of the International Leaders in Education Program (ILEP).

This program, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, provides teachers from different countries the opportunity to attend graduate-level courses and participate in other campus activities to help contribute to the improvement of teaching in their countries. This program also adds to the internationalization efforts for Ohio education by placing the scholars in internships at U.S. host schools.

This program is an opportunity of a lifetime for Ohio students.

"This is the first year we have participated in the program, and I hope it is the first of many," said Rootstown Local School District Superintendent, Andrew Hawkins. "We were honored to host Mohamad Gadelrab of Egypt and Jil Lahallo of Indonesia. Through their interaction and dialog with our students, Mohamed and Jil opened up a window to other countries and provided our students with a cultural experience that is a rare opportunity for kids their age."

Other participating Northeast Ohio host schools included Aurora City Schools, Crestwood High School, Hudson City Schools, Kent City Schools, Lakewood City Schools, Orange City Schools, Shaker Heights City Schools, Spring Garden, Waldorf School, Streetsboro City Schools, St. Patrick's School and Stow - Munroe Falls City Schools.

While here, the ILEP scholars also worked with Michael J. Schubert from the Portage County ESC on Integrating Technology into the Curriculum. As part of that experience, Schubert arranged for all 16 scholars to visit Rootstown to see how teachers of younger students are utilizing technology.

On April 30, Rootstown Elementary Principal, Jeff Turner, welcomed the scholars and led them through presentations, workshops, observations and discussions focused on technology usage in the classroom. This was the first time all visiting scholars were brought together for an on-site, hands-on session.

The visit allowed the scholars to witness first-hand how Rootstown PTA and district-purchased iPads, Netbooks, SMARTboards and Chromebooks, as well as students' personal devices from home, are being utilized in the classrooms. This experience also included observation of second grade teacher Sarah West's Mystery Skype classroom experience with a school in Colorado.

While these area students benefit by becoming familiar with other cultures, children around the world will benefit from the scholars' experience.

"I was impressed by the use of technology in American classrooms; in Ghana we are not able to have as much," said Sylvester Opoku, an economics teacher from Ghana. "I am taking home so much knowledge – the technology use knowledge I gained will help me to increase it in my classroom, benefiting my students."

Thomas Panachickal Varghese, who teaches 11th and 12th grade economics in India, provided another great example of the program's global benefits.

"I especially liked learning about the planning that is done here – daily planning, lesson planning and planning for the entire semester," Thomas said. "It is knowledge I will bring back with me to India and implement in my own classroom."

Children around the world will also benefit culturally from the scholars' experience. Thomas and Sylvester best summed up the groups' feelings about this opportunity.

"I'll never forget being able to learn about your culture or what I was able to see here either – there are five Great Lakes in the United States, and I saw two of them," Thomas said. "I look forward to sharing this experience with my students, my children and my grandchildren."

"I will take home with me the memory of the beautiful spirit of American culture," Sylvester said, "in which I witnessed everyone treating each other with courtesy and respect."

This is just one of the many outstanding EHHS programs enriching the lives of individuals at Kent State, in surrounding communities and around the globe. While this program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, there are many ways to support other outstanding EHHS programs. For more information, visit the EHHS website.

IMAGE: Mohamad Gadelrab of Egypt observes a Rootstown Elementary student’s usage of technology in the classroom.
IMAGE: A international scholar observes a Rootstown third grade student utilizing a classroom SMARTboard.
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