Teacher gets a world tour in classroom perpectives 2-2-27p
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette High School teacher Rodolfo Espinoza toured schools and companies in Beijing and Shanghai to better prepare his students for the world.
“Global competence was the focus of the trip and seeing the connections in the world and where our students fit in,” Espinoza said. “Seeing the rich history and culture of China firsthand will dramatically change the way I teach Asia.”
Espinoza, a 18-year veteran educator, was one of 32 teachers in the United States selected as a 2012 National Education Association Foundation Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow. They were also recipients of the NEA Foundation’s Awards for Teaching Excellence honor.
The mid-June fellowship trip, an extension of the teaching excellence awards program, is designed to expose teachers to international experiences and in turn broaden their students’ understanding of global relations, NEA Foundation President and CEO Harriet Sanford said in a news release.
“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” Sanford said.
“Our program has an intentional focus on strengthening each educator’s global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; taking action to improve conditions,” she said.
The group toured China June 19 through June 28 and visited schools, as well as Chinese operations of two U.S. manufacturing companies: Intel and Fastenal.
The companies seek employees who can work independently and solve problems without having to be led through “step by step” instructions, Espinoza said.
“They seem to have a harder time finding that kind of worker in China,” he said, adding that the companies often place U.S. employees in jobs there.
“Our discussions with Intel and Fastenal encouraged me to develop even more project/team centered skills in our students,” Espinoza said. “Our students need to better understand the world in economic and cultural terms and the skills necessary to work in that world.”
Chinese schools are trying to respond to the demand from U.S. industry in their country, Espinoza said.
“Traditionally, Chinese schools have been more of rote learning,” he said. “They’re expanding into that type of task-oriented, project-oriented, imaginative type of study.”
“They look at the United States as a model of innovation, so they’re very interested in how we get our students to think creatively and incorporate more innovation,” said Espinoza, who teaches World Geography and American Government.
During their trip, Espinoza said, the teachers visited middle and high schools in Beijing and Shanghai and visited with both teachers and students.
“Chinese teachers and students have a very high opinion of the United States and seem to view us as a model of creativity and success,” Espinoza said.
“They were also very proud of their own country’s accomplishments,” he said.
“They encouraged us to tell our students about the wonderful food, famous places, history and their famous pop stars.”
The teacher said he also plans to develop connections he made with teachers in China using technologies such as Skype.
Signs of growth in China are everywhere and the country is focused on its future, Espinoza said.
“As a teacher, this outlook is infectious and necessary to teaching young people about their own futures,” he said.
Students in the United States have more educational opportunities in their home country after high school, which is not the case in China, Espinoza said.
The results of students’ college entrance exam determines their futures, he said.
“They’re struggling with those issues,” Espinoza said. “There are not enough colleges, therefore, a lot of kids get left out. You see a huge increase in a number of Chinese students in foreign universities.”
Espinoza said he also drew inspiration from his daily interactions with the 31 other teachers.
“As we traveled, each day was spent sharing lessons, philosophies, and techniques on how to better reach students,” Espinoza said. “This experience draws out a flood of creativity that is the key to coming up with lessons that will then impact students. Ultimately, a teacher’s best resource is (his or her) own creativity and time to develop it.”