A professional development experience for North Carolina educators

Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 at their two-day orientation in Raleigh in May.

Go Global NC’s Global Teachers professional development program focuses on a different country each year. Countries selected have a significant impact in North Carolina and the world or can provide North Carolina teachers with new ideas or solutions that will be useful in their own classrooms, schools or districts.

Mexico, the selected country for 2019, is intrinsically linked to North Carolina. Program delegates will learn about the history, culture and environment of Mexico; and the education system through school visits, lectures and discussions with Mexican educators. They will also build their capacity to recognize the benefits and positively meet the challenges of the changing demographics in North Carolina’s school districts.

Highlights from Our Itinerary

Click on the blue bars to open them and see stories and photos.

Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegates from across North Carolina departed from Raleigh and Charlotte airports, met in Dallas for their connecting flight to Mexico City, and enjoyed dinner together. They also completed their in-country orientation to prepare for the rich history and culture experiences in Mexico City.

 

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Beth Giddings, a kindergarten teacher at GW Carver A+ Magnet School in Kannapolis, candidly captured and shares her range of emotions as she bravely moved outside of her comfort zone to grow personally and professionally. Her story is a great illustration of how quickly Go Global NC peer participants form a network of support, camaraderie and friendship that lasts throughout their travel experience and continues into the future.

“I woke up this morning and was ready to travel to Mexico with 40 amazing people. My family drove me to the airport and it hit me that I was really leaving the country and my family for 13 days. I started to stress a little.

As soon as I got to the airport I was greeted by Emily [Francis, Go Global NC group leader] with a great big smile, and four other Go Global NC participants who were more than happy to help me at the kiosk, and then I walked through security with Kelly [Dombrowski] and Shanna [Buckner]. Thank goodness we got through security without any hassle. As we walked through the airport looking for gate B7, we were greeted with smiles and conversations every time we saw someone else from our group. My nervousness subsided a little.

First flight was great. Had good conversations, rested a little, and when we landed in Dallas we were greeted with more smiles and conversations. Stress level went down even more when I saw so many friendly faces, heard laughing, joking and knew everyone was in the same situation and we would all look out for each other.

Second flight was great. More good conversations with different people and a little rest. Loved how I could hear teachers sharing stories about their classrooms. No lie, when we were beginning our descent into Mexico City I saw all of the buildings and realized I was not in North Carolina anymore and the stress came back. I would be landing in a place where I did not know the language, culture or people.

Getting off the plane and walking through what seemed like endless halls was not comforting but when we all were grouped together I felt at ease because there was more laughing and talking. People were learning names, faces and stories. Going through customs was a new experience for me but I felt at ease because amongst all of the strangers I saw faces I knew. People that I knew that I was going to be able to rely on.

I am still a little nervous about not knowing the language but I am also excited about learning a new culture with 40 amazing people. Here’s to a wonderful, life changing experience!”

Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegation in the Mexico City airport after a great travel day with Go Global NC. Let the learning continue!
Global Teachers in Mexico

On the first full day of Global Teachers – Mexico 2019, the delegates focused on touring and understanding the history and broad diversity of neighborhoods in Mexico City. They learned about its culture and arts by studying the Templo Mayor and National Palace, and experiencing the Ballet Folklórico, a Mexican folkloric ensemble, at Mexico City’s prominent cultural center, Bellas Artes National Theatre (The Palace of Fine Arts).

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Alex Herzing, a 7th and 8th grade English teacher at Woods Charter School in Chapel Hill, paints a vivid picture with his words that describe the cultural experience he and his fellow delegates shared in Mexico City.

“Como se dice ‘exhausted?’ (From my few years of Spanish, I’m going with muy cansada.) Today was our first full day in Mexico, and we did plenty!

We started with an open-air bus tour through the city—though we couldn’t take the main drag, La Reforma, as it was closed for pedestrians, runners, bikers, and everything else that doesn’t have a motor. We enjoyed the cool air and sleepy, quiet vibe as we headed towards Zócalo Plaza, then split into two groups and began touring the city. Mexico City, it seemed, was just waking up, as we walked through nearly empty streets and watched vendors set up for the day.

My group had the pleasure of first visiting the National Palace, where President Manuel López Obrador works, speaks to reporters, and receives foreign leaders. (I was perversely excited to learn that a herd of cats lives in the grounds and shelters itself among the cacti in the gardens.) What I found most notable were the murals from Diego Rivera, painted in a large stairwell and displayed among the second-story hall, that told Mexico’s ancient and more recent history. Our tour guide explained the impetus behind the Ministry of Finance commissioning these works from Rivera: art far more easily tells a history than the written word, especially for those without the ability to read. It sank in for me immediately, as I scanned the murals and gleaned messages and histories from the details. I took picture after picture, anxious to study them when I had more time. I was especially moved by the murals depicting the history of the Aztec people, in Tenchotitlan and other areas of Mexico. What was clearly a rich history ripe with color and crafting (and human sacrifice) was overtaken in what Rivera portrayed as a gruesome Spanish conquest in the name of religion and power. I was moved and upset, to put it simply.



From there, we visited centuries-old remains of Mexico City in what is now the basement of Spain’s Cultural Center, and then headed to lunch at what we were calling ‘House of Tiles’ instantly recognized for its cover-all decorations of blue and white tiles. Inside was an extensive restaurant and department store, Sanborns, which thankfully has preserved the baroque (and other) style throughout. I had enchiladas poblanos and enjoyed the chance to sit and decompress before more exploring.



After lunch, we finally got to visit the Metropolitan Cathedral (when we had the chance earlier, it was in the midst of mass), the inside of which is cavernous and covered with gold decorations. Dozens of chapels line the interior, and our guide took special note of the chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe.”



Our last tour stop before heading home was the remains of Templo Mayor, the flagship pyramid that Aztec rulers called home until the Spanish conquest. The remains were fascinating but hard to place—life has certainly changed since the 1300s, and the temple underwent seven constructions with the whims of each consecutive Aztec king. I enjoyed as well the museum connected to the remains, which showed the many decorations excavated over the years and even the ofrendas (offerings) that were left for gods.



We met up again with the group’s other half, freshened up, and headed to a dinner of steak and potatoes that concluded with a four song mariachi performance! Then, we bused to what will surely stick with me for a long time: Ballet Folklórico de Amalia Hernandez, a long-running showcase of Mexico’s amazing music and dance styles. Between the diversity of costumes, incredible musicianship, and amazing choreography, we were both entertained and educated, though several of us were puzzled by the brief appearance of a character in a mask that looked like blackface. Nevertheless, it was a rewarding end to a full day, and getting back to the hotel for rest was so welcome.



Looking forward to what’s in store,
Alex Herzing

Global Teachers delegates learned about economic differences and opportunities in the countries they visit. Today, our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 witnessed these differences in Mexico when they interacted with educators and students in the classrooms of Colegio Peterson (Peterson Private School) in Mexico City and visited Casa Tochan, a shelter with 30 beds for adult, male migrants.

 

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Abby Covington, a 4th grade math and social studies teacher at Millbridge Elementary School in Rowan County,

Today was one of the most profound days of my entire life. I am not sure I can adequately describe all that I experienced, but because I know that the world needs to hear this story, I will give my best effort in telling it.

The day started very early. After breakfast, we loaded a bus and headed to the Peterson School. The Peterson School is a private, international, co-educational, non-profit establishment located in Mexico City, Mexico.

Upon arrival, we were welcomed in and divided into groups based on the grade levels in which we teach. We weren’t able to go into elementary classrooms as it was a day for student led conferences. The school was bustling with families who had come to hear about their children’s progress and education. Instead, we visited the Montessori preschool classrooms. I have a limited about of knowledge about Montessori and a considerable understanding of childhood brain development. I was blown away. These classrooms were full of toys and manipulatives and games and puzzles. Everything was at the child’s eye level, giving them full access to the abundant resources in the classrooms.

As a math teacher, I loved seeing all of the opportunities for developing number sense and I was surprised by the level of arithmetic that these students were able to access using hands on materials. These young children, ranging from 3-5 years old, learned handwriting exclusively in cursive! For the equivalent of approximately $700 a month, these students were exposed to a well-rounded education that included an emphasis on the arts, physical movement, and hands on learning. Another point of interest is that there was NO technology. The director of elementary education remarked that, “The vision of Peterson School is to expose children to as many opportunities as they can to enrich and nurture their talents.”

"Your heart will be shifted as you encounter a human experience very different than your own."
In direct juxtaposition to this privileged private school experience, we visited Casa Tochan, a migrant shelter that serves as housing for men who are traveling from Central America, through Mexico to the US border.
 

I am not altogether sure what I thought this experience may be like beforehand, but nothing could have prepared me for sitting at the table with human beings who have struggled and sacrificed and persevered through some of the most horrific circumstances in order to escape violence and make a better life for themselves and those that they love.

 

If you don’t hear anything else from me during my entire trip... if you don’t read another word or look at another picture that I post, read this: These people are human beings. They have a story just like you and I have a story. American culture and media from all sides paints a picture of migration that we interpret and take to be truth, but you will never know the actual truth until you sit at a table with a person and hear their story. There is no person at the world’s table whose story is more important than another. The fabric of humanity is woven together by these stories.

I was overcome with emotion on more than one occasion as I considered these stories, and I have not completely processed it. When these beautiful people cook for you, serve you, and then break bread with you, I can assure you that your heart will be shifted as you encounter a human experience very different than your own.

Julie Pittman, an English teacher at R-S Central High School in Rutherford County and the 2018 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Western North Carolina Teacher of the Year, shares how empathy for others is what makes us all kindred spirits.

Three years ago, a group of students found me. They showed up at my door every single day. Sometimes they brought friends and siblings. Sometimes they brought questions. Sometimes they just needed a place to eat or study or find direction. They didn’t speak my language. I spoke very little of theirs. But they found me.

Read the full story, “My walk of empathy: a teacher’s journey to better understand her students,” which was originally published by EducationNC (EdNC).

Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegates had the opportunity to build a deep understanding of the pride Mexican people have for the preservation of indigenous culture and history during their time in the National Museum of Anthropology. The museum is renowned for its preservation of Mexico’s indigenous legacy and is considered to be a symbol of identity for generations seeking their cultural roots. As the North Carolina educators studied rooms of original and replicated, they observed the tradition and value systems from ancient civilizations that continue to be respected and integrated into Mexican life today.

Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 at the National Museum of Anthropology.

Delegates learned about the ceremony of the Voladores de Papantla, a cultural tradition of the Totonac people that dates back to ancient times, outside of the National Museum of Anthropology

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Casey Myers, a 9th to 12th grade Spanish teacher at Durham School of the Arts in Durham, shares her impressions of the National Museum of Anthropology and her inspirations to use what she learned in her classroom in the future.

The Global Teachers continued their immersion in Mexican culture through the important art history found at the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Home Studio Museum, a place where the famous couple lived and worked in two different houses, separated by a bridge.

Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo House. Photo credit Abby Covington.

Abby Covington, a 4th grade math and social studies teacher at Millbridge Elementary School in Rowan County, wrote, “I was fascinated to hear the stories of their lives and walk through the home that they shared. It was remarkably modern both in design and function for a home built in the 1930s. My favorite part of this stop was learning about the value seen in the working class citizen and Rivera’s commitment to creating paintings which would speak directly to the common people. The cactus fence that surrounded the house was a highlight for me as well, and I appreciated the fact that they wanted their home’s border to be natural. My love for plants and gardening has been nurtured and enlightened as I take in the rich vegetation found throughout Mexico City.”

One of the goals for Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 was to learn about water conservation efforts to protect Mexico’s drinking water supply. This was accomplished through experiential learning at an Isla Urbana Escuela de Lluvia or “rain school” in Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City. Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 tell the story below.

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Ashley Melendrez, a family and consumer sciences educator at Midway High School in Spivey’s Corner, shares her joyous day:

‘My heart is so incredibly full! Words cannot describe the joy. Today is truly a day I will cherish always and the absolute highlight of my professional career, thus far.

There is a water crisis in Mexico (and much of the world). Many individuals go without water for weeks at a time. When they do have access to water, it has to be transported by water trucks, which is expensive. It is also dangerous for the drivers. The trucks get hijacked for WATER. Something we take for granted every day; others are praying for it, begging for it, literally hiking for it, and even stealing it.

It was an amazing honor to visit a school today in Mexico and participate in providing a Rain Harvest system that will provide their entire school and community with FREE water for 6-8 months out of each year (rain season). This water will be used for washing, bathing, bathroom, and most importantly fresh-clean drinking water.
"Today is truly a day I will cherish always and the absolute highlight of my professional career."
The Isla Urbana Rain Catchment Water System Project at Escuela de Lluvia (Rain School)

The entire community was there to greet and thank us. Students, staff, and parents. As we first walked in, the children cheered. They were so happy to welcome us. The children wanted to shake our hands, give high fives and even wanted our autographs. They shared traditional dance with us.

The parents prepared a delicious lunch for us. The principal and staff expressed their gratitude and how impactful this is to their daily life. We learned about the Harvest system, how it works and the upkeep which is parent-led. We meet with and learned from Isla Urbana, an incredibly nonprofit committed to providing access to clean water, in Mexico.

I have never seen children more thankful & full of happiness! It was contagious!

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Christine Preddy is a 7th grade science teacher at AL Stanback Middle School in Orange County, making her uniquely qualified to tell us about rainwater harvesting.

“After a long ride out of the lake valley of Mexico City and into the bumpy hills, 41 other teachers and I from North Carolina poured out of three white minivans. We shuffled off the bus, into the bright sun of Xochimilco, and wandered down the dusty street.

Moments later we turned the corner and were immediately directed into what seemed like a hidden doorway. Like a tsunami, a wave of sun and green and children’s voices hit us. Hand-shaking, smiles, and high fives were exchanged as we stumbled into an arena of joy and hundreds of elementary kids everywhere. This was Escuela Doctor Epifanio Jimenez Avila, an Isla Urbana Escuela de Lluvia. It was one of a growing number of Rain Schools in Mexico City.

Isla Urbana, which started with residential rainwater harvesting systems in 2009, is helping with what is a huge water crisis. Surrounded by lakes and the Eno River, my community in North Carolina does not lack for water. Having your water cut off can happen to families, but there is always water at school, and always someone with access. Consistently we have water. According to Isla Urbana’s website, 10 million people in Mexico don’t have access to water services and there only remains about 2% of the water there once was in Mexico City. They predict Mexico City has about 50 more years of water access from ground aquifers. Families need to pay large sums of money, around 20% of their income, to purchase water from also inconsistent trucks that bring water to neighborhoods every few days. Schools, as we learned this day from students, teachers and parents, have been known to close because there was no water. However, there is water, during the rainy seasons literally raining down on these communities. So, Isla Urbana has worked to create a harvesting and filtering system and it has, is and will continue to change lives.

It struck me on this day of celebration, while children performed dances from the various states of Mexico in their colored costumes, just how simple some changes can be. The simple change of gathering the rain gave the school access to consistent water for most of the year. Simple, of course, as an idea; complex in action. Isla Urbana, works to educate and connect people to their relationship with their resources and each other. The families were present everywhere, which is something I’ve been learning is a strong part of Mexican culture. It is said that 6/10 schools do not have access to consistent water in Mexico. It’s a mind-blowing statistic, except when you look at our whole planet: that 1 out of 9 people do not have access to water (water.org).

Global Teachers Connecting with Students

The Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegates were selected from across North Carolina because they prove they are excellent educators in their classrooms every day. They brought this dedication to their immersion experience in Mexico, proving they can connect with students everywhere.

Gaining insight into a country’s history, culture, and physical environment is an essential goal of Go Global NC’s programs. Learning about and experiencing the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located outside of Mexico City, provided our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 with the opportunity to see one of the most powerful cultural centers in Mesoamerica.

 

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Freebird McKinney, a world history/social studies teacher at Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington and the 2018 NC Teacher of the Year, shares his special experience and the gravity of the moment a world history teacher realizes a dream of experiencing, of meeting, history.

As a World History teacher, it is difficult to put into context the overwhelming emotions that accompany an experience like visiting an ancient archaeological site that you share yearly [in the classroom] with your students. Few educators have this opportunity unless we intentionally make this a priority in our ‘life design.’

The day began with our first visit to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent), a site that our guide declared was his favorite archaeological site of the Aztec world. When I asked why this was his favorite site, he responded, ‘Wait until you see how well preserved the statues of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc, the Aztec God of Rain are.’

 

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is located at the southern end of the Avenue of the Dead, Teotihuacan's main thoroughfare, within the Ciudadela complex. The Ciudadela is a structure with high walls and a large courtyard surrounding the temple. The Ciudadela’s courtyard is massive enough that it could house the entire adult population of Teotihuacán within its walls, which was estimated to be one hundred thousand people at its peak. The excitement and thrill of engaging with such an incredible civilization was humbling and transformational all in a single experience. As we climbed to the top of the first set of stairs, I realized that my vision of experiencing the Aztec Empire in all of its glory, was moments away.

My first experience with the Temple of the Feathered Serpent was exactly as advertised- it was the most well-preserved example of Mesoamerican sculpture that I had witnessed in person. The facades of Quetzacoatl and Tlaloc were unprecedented, all the way to the coloration of the feathers in the headdress of the feathered serpent god. I stood in amazement at the civilization that had created this temple but also at the mercy of the elements for allowing us all the opportunity to witness this greatness nearly 500 years later. It was breathtaking and as we moved from this temple to the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacan; I marveled at the opportunity to walk the facade of this ancient testimony to the brilliance of these civilizations. As our group approached the pyramid, I quickly gathered myself to understand the gravity of this ‘meeting.’ ‘World History teacher, meet history, one of the greatest sites of the ancient world.’

I was blown away by the enormity of the site. The Avenue of the Dead was an unbelievable sight to witness from our perspective standing atop the pyramid, looking over at the Pyramid of the Moon. I recalled the multiple dreams I had about this moment and quickly realized many of my colleagues were experiencing a very different moment - one that encapsulated the immediate gravity of this journey - but only a world history teacher could fully appreciate because we talk about the Aztecs without complete context of the extravagance of Teotihuacan. I would now be able to teach in a completely different context.

 

I have the opportunity, the imperative to create lessons that speak to my students, to their place in the human story, to their privilege, and to their past. I can do this by teaching Mansa Musa. I can do this by incorporating the brilliance of the Aztecs. We have this power as educators and we owe this to our profession, our communities, and our students.

I see my students in the history of the Aztecs. I see my community in the ancient arts of Mesoamerica. I see ALL of humanity in a deeper communality with Mexico, its inhabitants and its migrants. I see myself in this ‘walk of empathy,’ in a walk that brings unity and inclusivity in our story, THE story. .

There are many opportunities provided to delegates of each Global Teachers programs to observe and learn about the education system of the country selected for study each year. In addition to visiting a metropolitan private school earlier in their program, the Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegation learned about customized industrial training for national and international companies at the Guanajuato Institute of Technical Training (IECA); received a presentation, “Guanajuato State Education System, from the Secretary of Education; and visited public primary and secondary schools.

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Lauren Kepke, a special education teacher at Enloe High School in Raleigh, summarizes the day for us in this video reflection, including her observation about an important similarity between educators in Mexico and North Carolina:

“The passion of the administrators [in Mexico] reflect the passion we have for our own students.”

Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 at Guanajuato Institute of Technical Training. Photo credit Freebird McKinney.
Global Teachers learn about the Guanajuato state education system. Photo credit Freebird McKinney.

While at IECA, the Global Teachers delegation received a special introduction to and presentation from Adriana Cortés, the director of Fundación Comunitario del Bajío (Community Foundation of Central Mexico) and Go Global NC’s valued partner in Guanajuato for nearly 20 years. Interacting with Adriana and the foundation creates authentic, enlightening experiences for Go Global NC’s program delegations in Mexico.

Adriana’s presentation inspired the Global Teachers, as shared by Freebird McKinney, a world history/social studies teacher at Walter M. Williams High School in Burlington and the 2018 NC Teacher of the Year, “To say that Adriana is an iconic figure in the state of Guanajuato would be an understatement of seismic proportions.

She spoke to us of her work with Irapuato, her home, as well as the community of Peñitas, and its relationship with UNC-Chapel Hill and the NC Latino Credit Union with the ‘Health House.’ She shared her collaboration with local industries as Irapuato and Guanajuato has emerged as the ‘automobile corridor through an ongoing economic transition. In this transition she discussed the intersection of issues and the vital necessity of a community director to ‘understand the people, ALL of the people.’ [Adriana] reflected on her service and discussed that she never does anything without listening to the people; and she needs the assistance and the participation of all who live in the community. In her projects, Adriana provides opportunities for her communities to join in projects, to encourage dreams.”

There are angels that walk among us and this lady, Adriana Cortés, is one of them. I am a better person for meeting her. She is a strong, passionate and outspoken advocate for her people. She is the founder of Fundación Comunitario del Bajío, a nonprofit organization in Mexico championing the cause of her people she loves so much!

Jeff Little, Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegate

Observing local schools is always a highlight of a Global Teachers program.
See Emily Francis’ Instagram post below for more pictures at Escuala Secundaria Oficial de Iraputo. Emily is an ESL teacher at W.M. Irvin Elementary School in Concord and was one of the Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 co-leaders.

Global Teachers – Mexico 2019, like all Go Global NC programs, provided multi-faceted experiences to the delegates ’immersion learning to help them gain insight into the country’s history, culture, and physical environment. This includes seeing how people live in the countries. This includes exploring local communities, interacting with people and spending time with host families.

 

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Melissa Breaden, a school social worker for the Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools Pre-K Head Start Program, reflects on her experience.

“It is with much gratitude that we were able to spend this day with families and community members from Irapuato. They showed us their homes, their city, their culture and their kindness. I extend my warmest thanks to Daniel and Eva, two dedicated educators who shared their time and their lives with Donetta [Pedroza], Jessica [Carawan] and I on this Sunday afternoon. As I reflect on this day, a few of the many beautiful moments remain especially vivid and capture the essence of our trip here to Mexico.

A man, a woman and a young boy sit on the side of the road by a crooked wooden table. The fire crackles next to them as they toss freshly picked peanuts on a wire rack perched atop the flames. The smell of the roasting peanut shells fills the air. We buy a big bag to share together.

The car slowly climbs up, up, up the mountain. The bumpy road curves back and forth hugging the side of the earth. At every switchback, another sign appears reminding us to care for the environment. Family run fondas line the top of the mountain selling comida casera, food made with spicy chilis and frijoles and lots of love.

Cristo del Rey sits atop the mountain, raising both hands to embrace every being, every plant, every breath of air that together form this beautiful world. People, old and young, travel from afar to bring offerings and pay homage. Love has no limits.

A visit to El Rancho, Daniel's father's home, brings tranquility to the soul. The rich soil of the endless fields hold the foundation of life. The rooster crows and the sheep mingle in the warm afternoon sun. The rescued cactus garden gives wounded plants a second life, sharing their flowers and fruits in return. A homemade meal - potato tacos, freshly made goat's milk cheese and salsa that warms the heart - shared in the outdoor kitchen brings two worlds closer together.

Go Global NC strives to introduce Global Teachers delegates to the spectrum of schools in countries selected to study. In addition to helping the educators understand the diversity of the country, the experience mirrors the range of schools they represent from across North Carolina – large cities, smaller communities, and rural areas.

Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 had the opportunity to compare and contrast a private school (see Day 3) and an urban public school in Mexico City, which is a metropolitan area with a population of more than 21 million. Educators then broadened their scope by visiting public schools in more prosperous areas of Irapuato, a municipality with a population of about .5 million (Day 7), and then the rural, less affluent areas of Irapuato. For a well-rounded perspective, the delegation completed their day at ENOI Teacher Training Institute to learn about university methodologies in teacher training and hear a panel discussion with future teachers.

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Kate Culbreth, a 5th grade English language arts teacher at Wolf Meadow Elementary School in Concord, N.C., offers a heartfelt account of her experience in rural schools in Irapuato and a goal she discovered that we can all share to improve the future of communities anywhere in the world.

“We had all been looking forward to visiting the rural schools since arriving in Irapuato. We had learned so much about the work of Adriana Cortez and the Fundacion Comunitaria del Bajio and today we had the opportunity to share an experience with the communities that we have heard so much about.

I was surprised that after no more than 10 minutes our bus arrived at La Escuela Primaria Rural Vicente Guerrera. The short trip was another experience where the proximity of poverty and privilege was profound. We stepped off of the bus as the principal, Catalina Mosqueda Salmeron was opening a large blue gate. A small “Bienvenidos” sign hung on the gate, along with a handwritten note welcoming us to the school.

As the gate closed behind us, we paused to read a series of quotes that described a mission and vision for the school.

Ms. Mosqueda Salmeron explained that this school is made up of about 180 students. The staff consists of 6 classroom teachers, a physical education teacher, a principal, and an assistant principal. She also described the high turnover rate of this school. Out of 6 classroom teachers, 5 of them were in their first year.

We started by visiting a 1st grade classroom where they were learning about shapes. Students found examples of the shapes throughout the room and then were very excited to use tangrams to make a figure and then draw it in their notebooks. After the tangram activity, the students colored a train that was made from shapes. The students assessed their own learning by writing what they had success with (logros) and what they struggled with (dificultades).

We shared a delicious lunch which with the principal and regional educational directors who oversee many schools in this area. The families prepared many traditional dishes, including mole, which is a dish typically reserved for special events. Once again, the hospitality with which we were honored made us feel exceptionally special and welcomed.

After lunch, we visited a 5th grade classroom where students were learning to calculate perimeter and area. Maestro Juvetino engaged students in a mini-lesson to find the formula for perimeter and area of several regular and irregular shapes. He used from construction paper to illustrate the shapes and they told him the formulas. I was in awe of the culture that Maestro Juvetino had created in his classroom. His students were so eager to learn and not afraid to make mistakes. He reiterated to them several times that we are all human, we make mistakes and that is how we learn. It was some of the best teaching I have ever witnessed.

The environment that I had the privilege of witnessing in this classroom was in so many ways universal. The smiles were universal. The high fives were universal. The hopes and dreams were universal. These are the things that transcend borders and walls, and every child deserves the right to learn to work hard and dream big. Children are universal.

At the end of our visit, Ms. Mosqueda Salmeron left us with some words that resonated with me. She reiterated many of the challenges that were visible throughout our visit. The teachers had very few materials. There was no technology in the school. The classroom walls were bare. The children live in extreme poverty. However, Ms. Mosqueda Salmeron said that those challenges didn’t stop La Escuela Primaria Rural Vicente Guerrera from working towards its main goal: to mold students into compassionate human beings. Our schools may be on opposite sides of the world and we may face different challenges, but what is more universal than teaching all of our children about humanity, kindness, and empathy? It’s a goal we can and should all share to improve the future of our communities and beyond.

Go Global NC provides Global Teachers with the most comprehensive exposure to a country’s education system as possible to provide them with understanding or inspiration of ways they can grow in their roles as North Carolina’s educators. Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegates completed their focus at the Higher Technological Institute of Irapuato (In Spanish: Instituto Tecnológico Superior de Irapuato), popularly known as ITESI. It is a public university located in the city of Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico. ITESI offers 17 bachelor's degrees and four masters programs in the areas of management, social sciences, and engineering.

Part of developing a global perspective includes learning about how governments of other countries approach common challenges and opportunities found in North Carolina and the United States. Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 learned about “Migration in the 21st Century” from Juan Hernandez, Secretary of Migrant Programs, Department of Migrant and Foreign Affairs, Guanajuato, Mexico.

 

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Jacob Newbauer, a third grade teacher at Maureen Joy Charter School in East Durham, reflects on what he learned about migration from Secretary of Migrant Programs Juan Hernandez as well as throughout his time in Mexico.

To be a human is to be a migrant. Humans have migrated since the dawn of time. Mexico has not forgotten this fact. When I say “Mexico” I mean the collective nature of its national identity, the ethos of its institutions and the attitudes of its communities and individuals.

Over the past week we have seen many examples of this fact that has not permeated the narrative of Mexican migration that we hold in the United States. We see mothers and fathers and teachers filling in many gaps in order to provide the children of Mexico with the most promise for a future here. Mothers bring their students snack every day at 10:30 to the local elementary school and work with school administration and local NGOs to build rain water collection systems to provide water for the school. Fathers walk to the factory every day for little pay in lieu of migrating to the United States for exponentially better pay. Teachers educate students every day many teaching in the morning and afternoon shift in order to accommodate more students. I say this to actively oppose the narrative that some have in the United States that Mexico is not trying to solve its own problems. Teachers take sign language classes every day and pay for these classes out of their own pockets.

But sometimes this is not enough and families make the decision to migrate. It seems as though Mexico as a whole does not stigmatize this natural and human decision to seek a better life. The reality of migration is not positive or negative – it just is. This idea could best be explained by Fernando Fernandez, a consultant for the secretary of migration of the state of Guanajuato simply stated, “We all have relatives who have gone to the United States for some reason or another.”
Now that we have contextualized the efforts of Mexican citizens to support their local community I can move on to my principal point that migration is human, and that’s something we can learn in the United States. The secretary of migration of the state of Guanajuato has this belief integrated throughout its services. These services treat migrants as humans rather than problems or liabilities. A few key services I want to highlight:

  • Support for Domestic Businesses: provides individuals with relatives in the United States with start-up funds for launching small businesses.
  • Migrant Services Fair: The state government holds monthly fairs throughout the United States to support Mexican nationals living abroad. A main service provided is providing official documents to Mexican emigres that they cannot travel to Mexico for.
  • Silver Miners: Every year the state government coordinates the visas and logistics for about 12 senior citizens [who are between 60 – 85] to visit family members in the United States that they have not seen [for at least 15 years]. The families pay for their travel.
  • Guanajuato Goes with You: When migrant communities in the United States have a festival celebrating their culture from Guanajuato, the secretary of migration sends a delegation of artists and dancers so that migrants and their children can maintain their cultural ties to their home state.

I have presented only a few of the efforts of the [Mexican] citizens and the government to support their people domestically and abroad. It is clear that they treat migration as part of the human experience and not in an over-simplified manner as an illegal act. We can look back in history to see great many stories of people migrating for a better life: African slaves fleeing to Canada via the underground railroad, Israelites seeking the “Promised Land” after being enslaved in Egypt, Irish migration to the US after the Potato Famine, Cubans fleeing Castro, Anglo-Saxons moving to British Isles from Germany, East Berliners being smuggled under the Berlin Wall to West Berlin, Ukrainian Jews fleeing the pogroms of the 1800s (just one of the sources of the Jewish Diaspora), and Scandinavians moving to the Midwest looking to homestead. All these are examples of people moving around the world looking for safety and a better life, which makes it safe to say that migration is an extremely human act that is evident in all points of history in every culture.

Go Global NC programs connect North Carolina and the world through profound experiences that lead to transformative personal and professional growth. Our Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 delegates have become global-ready teachers who will share their new knowledge and insights in classrooms across North Carolina.

Reflections from a Global Teacher

Jeff Little, a 2nd grade teacher at East Albemarle Elementary School in Stanly County, reflects on his experience and tells his story of transformation.

Go Global NC - Mexico 2019 Final Day Reflection, Jeff Little

“Life has a way of pushing you outside of your comfort zone and placing you exactly where and when you need to be at that particular moment! Such is how my adventure with Global Teachers – Mexico 2019 began. As the teacher of the year for my district, one of the awards for this distinction is an endowment from the Mariam and Robert Hayes Charitable Trust to be used for participation in the Go Global NC program.

"I know that as a result of my participation, I am a better teacher and person."
Upon learning of this opportunity, I must admit the thoughts of traveling to Mexico left me feeling very apprehensive and unsure of myself. I had never traveled more than 800 miles from home; now I would be traveling by plane to a destination outside of the U.S. To compound my anxiety further, not only can I not speak Spanish, but I struggle to distinguish words spoken in English by soft spoken individuals or when conversing in groups where multiple or loud conversations are taking place. How in the world was I going to be able to communicate effectively? I have since learned that this experience was exactly where and when I needed to be; and I know that as a result of my participation, I am a better teacher and person.

It did not take me long to realize after arriving in Mexico that everyone could quickly identify me as a “gringo,” but they had patience and tolerance for my Spanish-speaking shortcomings. I dare say that this would not have been the case if the roles had been reversed and they had been in the U.S. Everyone I attempted to converse with aided me in finding some way to communicate so that we were able to ultimately understand one another. It was truly a humbling experience for me, especially when whomever I was talking with was able to communicate with me in English. These individuals would typically apologize to me for their speech not being as good as they felt it should be; I had to explain that I was the one who should be apologizing, not them. I was a guest in their country, and they were more fluent in my language than I was in theirs. This experience alone has helped me to grow, acknowledge my shortcomings as a member of a global society, and resolve myself to learn to speak and read Spanish so that I can become a more effective member of my global community.
This experience quickly impacted my misconceived notion that I had an adequate understanding of the history and culture of the Mexican people. I was simply overwhelmed the second day of the trip as we visited the Templo Mayor with the richness, vibrancy and sheer volume of information that was everywhere I looked. The ruins of the Aztec temples that the Spanish tried to destroy and wipe from history persevered despite their best attempts. The melding of Aztec and indigenous symbolism depicting their deities and beliefs incorporated into the Catholic Church’s icons and imagery found emblazoned side by side on the Cathedral in the center of Mexico City speaks volumes of the people of this region and their desire to retain their history and culture. I watched in awe and wonder as groups performed Aztec dances in intricate costumes and conducted ritual cleansing ceremonies utilizing sage. To read and learn about history is to gain knowledge, but to experience and see things first hand is to gain understanding and memories which are richer and more meaningful.

As we began to visit schools, travel into neighborhoods, and go to the migrant shelter I quickly learned of people facing daunting challenges with pride, fortitude, and resolve like I have never experienced. I saw and heard parents asking why [our Global Teachers delegation was] there. They made it clear that they did not want our pity or money, but they wanted help finding solutions to their concerns. I saw individuals, including children, doing whatever it took to support their families. If that meant missing school to help their parents make a living, so be it! I saw a desperate need for water resources that I could not fully understand until I experienced it first-hand. Being poor and disadvantaged is one thing, but add to that the lack of water and little to no access to health care, and the situation becomes critical. I saw immigrants and listened to their stories and thanked God for my privileged existence. I listened to details of drug, sex, child, and organ trafficking that made me cringe inside and want to cry in despair. But amid all of this, I saw hope for a better future in the form of volunteers and NGO’s, people like Adriana Cortés, who are willing to stand and work with the residents of Mexico.

"This adventure, that I once had so many reservations about before it began, has awakened a call to action in me."
It has stirred a passion in me to get involved in immigration education and reform, to find a way to assist schools and communities in Mexico and aid them in improving their circumstances, and to help my students find a way to be better citizens in a global society. I am still working on how I will accomplish these goals, but you can bet I will continue to strive to attain them. Thank you Go Global NC and the Mariam and Robert Hayes Charitable Trust for affording me this opportunity to participate in such a wonderful learning experience. It has proven to be a truly profound and life changing moment in my life as a teacher and member of society.”