February 27, 2013

Second Time’s a Charm


Erin Towns, from Auburn, Maine, participated in the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program
Hailing from Auburn, Maine, Erin Towns—an honors world history teacher—first applied to the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) Program two years ago.

“The first time I applied for the program I was turned down,” says Erin.  “A very, very good friend of mine said, ‘What are you crying for, just apply again.’ So I reevaluated what I had written and applied again… and I was accepted.”

 She had persevered and was ecstatic about her acceptance into the TGC program, but the application process was just the beginning.

 “I was introduced to the program through an eight-week online course,” says Erin. “It is a rigorous course—I had to balance quite a bit-- but at the same time it totally revolutionized what I was doing in the classroom.”  

“This is my twelfth year of teaching and I think that it has a tendency to suck you into a routine. The course made me realize that there were other things I needed to be doing. It reinforced that my students are 21st century learners. It made me take a look at the way I was using technology in the classroom and it reinvented that for me.”

 “Before, I would stand in front of a classroom and I would discuss. I would have my own videos, my own pictures up; I would create all of these PowerPoint presentations. Now I have students do the research themselves. I provide them with the basic knowledge they need and then I set them loose. There is much more discussion and a lot more comprehension within the classroom.”

 Eight weeks of online courses have already helped Erin begin to globalize her classroom. As she gears up for her trip to Kazakhstan, Erin prepares to expect the unexpected. 

 Erin will be traveling to Kazakhstan—a country she’s seen on a map but knew little about. “I’m not going to lie, when I got the letter about going to Kazakhstan my jaw dropped,” admits Erin.  “I was a little petrified. I know where Kazakhstan is, I teach about its geographic location every year. But then… realized [it’s a] country I don’t know a fair amount about. So I’m really excited now, I can’t wait.”

 “Our state has noticed an influx in immigration from eastern African countries-- introducing the religion of Islam into local communities. That was not existent before. A lot of tensions over the years have presented themselves as a result of that. Going to Kazakhstan presents an intriguing aspect of how we could promote communication and tolerance.”  

Erin hopes more teachers will recognize the need for globalized learning and not be deterred by the application process.  

“A lot of teachers think, ‘I don’t have time in my schedule, I don’t have this, I don’t have that,’ all legitimate concerns without a doubt,” says Erin. “I have a twelve year old son who is just a kid. I have to spend time away from him but in the end he gets to see a model of opening your eyes, traveling, and getting over ‘What are you going to eat, mom?’ Well I might have to eat some things I might not be down with but, I can’t knock it until I try it. You know, I think there is a really powerful lesson in that.”

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