Fifth grade teacher Narda Black says she feels that this is a perfect opportunity to combine her love of travel with her passion for educating future generations. She will be teaching at Escuela Omar Torrijos Herrera, in the Paradiso section of Panama City.
“I’m really looking forward to not only teaching English language skills to the children in Panama, but I also want to bring a little bit of the rest of the world back with me to Dexter,” said Black, who plans on sharing her experiences with her classes in Dexter once she is back in the United States later this summer.
Black and the 17 other teachers chosen for this year’s Partners of the Americas summer program in Panama will undergo a one-week training course before getting started in Panamanian classrooms.
She plans on keeping several pen pals with local teachers and students, as well as some of the 17 fellow teachers she will be working with during the program’s course. Upon her arrival in Dexter she will immediately begin planning to have her local Dexter students write to some of the students she met on her trip.
Black will be working from a personal class book that she created based on what she teaches in Dexter so her Panama students will get to know what their counterparts in Dexter know. The book will also contain photos and have explanation of who she is, so the students she interacts with can get as much enrichment out of their exposure to her as she will get from being their teacher.
“I’m going to bring gifts for the students down there and a blow up globe, so I can point to it and say, ‘Here is where Michigan is,” she explained. “And “Here’s Panama,” so we can forge those relationships and bonds.”
Familiar and a different world all at once
Panama is an interesting place in that it’s a cultural melting pot of people from throughout the Central American region, due to the presence of the canal and all of the commercial and political activity that revolves around it.
It’s interesting to note that there’s only an hour’s time different between Panama and Michigan, and they also use the U.S. dollar as a baseline currency, while at the same time the area is nearby to substantial rain forests because of the country’s proximity to the equator.
“Since I used to live in Miami, I’m looking forward to seeing the similarities that there are between the two locations,” Black said. “I’m also ready to see the differences, since there are so many different native peoples there and there are people who come to Panama City from all over the world.
“And it’s one of the few places in the world where you can put your toe into the Atlantic Ocean and then into the Pacific (Ocean).”
Bringing it home to Dexter
Black says she feels that students in Dexter, and America in general, need all of the exposure to the world outside of the United States border that educators and parents can provide for them.
“I don’t think many students here have had that opportunity to experience different cultures or travel internationally, and I kind of want to use this trip to make the world a smaller place,” she explained. “If my students here in Dexter can meet other 10-year-olds that they can correspond with and experience people that look and talk very different than you and I, then I think that’s a valuable experience.”
Black’s own daughter has participated in a student exchange program in Argentina, and she says the difference in her daughter’s worldview is appreciable. Black’s also traveled to London, Paris and various parts of Mexico in her lifetime.
“I’m hoping to bring a little bit of that back to my students in the Fall, and hopefully instill a love of travel in them too.”