A New Way to Support Teachers

Written by Executive Director Chadd McGlone

T2T-I has a new word in its vocabulary of programs: seminar. In Spanish, it’s capacitaciones pedagógicas. Given that we’re providing seminars in STEM education, we’re considering coining the term STEMinars. You heard it here first, folks!

To explain why we needed another name in the first place, we need to go back in time to 2014. T2T-I grew out of a desire to connect teachers in the U.S. with teachers in developing countries to build long-term, deep, two-way partnerships. We initially thought that one-week trips to connect in person during summer breaks would meet everyone’s needs.

When we saw the excitement among the local teachers in Guatemala and Ecuador, however, we couldn’t be content with continuing the relationships long distance throughout the other ten months of the year. So we organized some smaller, shorter visits to provide workshops that filled in and built on the changes begun during Teacher Trips.

T2T-I Board Member Francisco Alarcón leads a workshop for teachers in Santa Avelina, Guatemala

These experimental, two- to three-day visits were so well-received that this week marks our third one. To make them official, we’ve dubbed them seminars and capacitaciones pedagógicas. Once again, we have some amazing educators joining us.

The STEM Dream Team

Our dream team roster begins with three board members: Arthur Powell, Steve Rasmussen, and Leslie Babinski. Arthur and Steve have both offered their significant expertise with T2T-I before, even traveling as far as the Galápagos Islands to coach local teachers. Leslie has managed to extract herself from her busy job on the faculty at Duke University to help T2T-I take an important step in measuring impact.

Tim Quiroz, a teacher trainer from Santa Barbara, California, is returning on his fourth trip with T2T-I in one year. Tim’s goal for this visit will be helping teachers connect literature, games, and mathematics. His workshops are always popular.

From the University of Maryland, Dan Lavin joins us for the first time. He is a science education professor and the fifth person from UMD to participate in a T2T-I program in the past nine months. Dan has planned some great science education lessons that will show teachers how to incorporate local wildlife and materials.

Our final two team members are also first-timers: Jere Confrey and Alan Maloney.  Jere is a mathematics education professor and Alan is a research scientist. They have together founded the Learning Sciences Group, which combines educational research with advanced technology to benefit middle grades mathematics students.

Where are They Going?

These seven experts in STEM education will offer seminars in four locations in Guatemala —

  • El Paredón – Arthur, Steve, Leslie, Dan, and Tim will join T2T-I staff BeckyAdams, Lucía Davila, and me in this lovely coastal surfing town. We will spend the first day in workshops with the 24 local teachers and then during the second day focus our time in their classrooms. This visit to El Paredón is T2T-I’s third, and we’re always moved by how warmly the local teachers welcome us. Some of them even traveled inland to Antigua to attend the conference we organized last November.
  • Antigua – Jere, Alan, Steve, and T2T-I Country Director Manuela Cea-Poblete will be in this historic colonial city meeting with some of our partners and working with the leaders of our Center for Education, which was recently renamed ANIMATE. (Animate in Spanish means to motivate or enliven, and it contains the word for mathematics, too, which is mate. Pretty cool, eh?) They will also participate in a team workshop.

    Lago Atitlán with volcanoes

  • Santa Avelina – Arthur, Dan, Becky, and Hans del Cid will travel to Santa Avelina to hold a two-day workshop with the 13 teachers at the William M. Botnan school. One of our favorite schools to visit, this gorgeous highland location not only has its very own waterfall but overflows with hospitality.
  • Panajachel – Our partner Starfish Impact invited Steve, Jere, Alan, Manuela, Lucía, and I to their brand new school serving upper-grade girls. We will meet the teachers, observe their classes, provide coaching, and plan future collaboration. Given that this town is on the northeastern shore of Lake Atitlán, surrounded by three volcanoes, we’ll soak up the stunning views while we’re there.

Bearing Gifts

A final note of gratitude is due to ETA/Hand2Mind for the manipulatives and Cuisenaire rods they have donated to each of these schools. Not to be confused with Cuisinart kitchen tools, Cuisenaire rods are colored, segmented sticks that allow elementary students to build their understanding of fractions. We love distributing these resources because they enable student-centered learning while at the same time creating enjoyment.

All of this takes place in the span of ten days, and I could not be more grateful to the T2T-I staff in Guatemala for their precise coordination of its many moving parts. To get seven visiting experts to four communities to serve 37 teachers with a reach of over 1000 students, the logistics require a top-notch team. Thank goodness that’s exactly what we’ve got!

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