Teachers have a lot to show and tell after summer vacation
A North Allegheny history teacher starts the school year armed with firsthand observations of the recent escalation of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, and the growing divide between Israelis and Palestinians.
A McKeesport social studies teacher hopes to convey her new understanding of Brazil's political system and issues in history, economics and model United Nations classes.
Spanish teachers in Quaker Valley and Peters, Washington County, have new cultural examples to help their students grasp the intricacies of a foreign language.
All agree that real-world summer experiences can be a crucial component of their professional development.
"I really think that they're indispensable, especially for the kinds of classes I teach," said Greg Funka, a history teacher at North Allegheny Intermediate High School.
It is not known how many public school teachers use their summers to gain real-world experiences that they can use in the classroom. Dozens of private foundations and nonprofit organizations work with universities or directly with teachers to help pay for summer trips to foreign countries.
An increasing number of corporations and nonprofit organizations are participating in similar programs that provide math and science teachers with "externships" at public and private research facilities, according to Education Week magazine.
Funka, 29, of Moon, said a trip to China two years ago gave him concrete examples to use when describing that country's increasing economic significance in the world. A month in Jerusalem this summer gave him direct experience of the Middle East conflicts that have been driving international politics for two generations.
The trip also provided him with the small details such as being frisked whenever he entered a restaurant or store, and learning how to say "No, I don't have a gun" in Hebrew.
Robin Tyke, 44, of Murrysville, spent part of her summer interviewing Brazilians about their political system. She also spent it learning that Salvador's rush-hour traffic is worse than Pittsburgh's.
"I'll never complain again," she said.
Tyke said she was surprised how much Brazilians admire everything about the United States except for its foreign policy.
"Everybody sees us as something to strive for," she said.
The two Spanish teachers said they try to visit different Spanish-speaking countries whenever possible.
Caitlin McKenna, 24, of Peters, spent four weeks at the Veritas University in San Jose, Costa Rica. In addition to learning how Costa Rica differs from Spain and Mexico in terms of dialect and cuisine, she benefited from spending the month surrounded by fluent Spanish speakers.
Elizabeth Crum, 37, of McDonald, Washington County, has visited Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Ecuador and Spain. She spent two weeks in Mexico this summer taking advanced language classes in the morning. More importantly, she spent her afternoons immersing herself in the culture that spawned the language.
"I think it's absolutely imperative," she said. "I think it's impossible to teach something as vibrant and alive as a language without getting out into the culture."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: The series that will define these Pirates
- Steelers’ Timmons looks to reverse defense’s struggles
- Pitt star running back Conner adjusting to higher profile this year
- Steelers’ Polamalu relying on smarts as physical skills decline
- Convicted Florida felon kills his 6 grandchildren, daughter, self
- Fire ravages 2 buildings in downtown New Kensington
- Ex-Gateway coach Smith making mark at Penn State
- 2 Oakland houses destroyed by fire; none hurt
- Pirates hold on to beat Red Sox, complete 3-game sweep at PNC
- Police: Trooper ambush suspect probably hiding in woods
- Sutersville principal’s comments taken out of context, district claims