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Foreign teachers come to USFfor six-week training program

Sometimes teachers are the best students. That’s the sentiment behind USF’s newest effort to connect educators from around the world.

They came anywhere from Argentina to Russia – 24 international high school educators from 12 different countries are making USF their home for a six-week training program that started Feb. 4, said Barbara Cruz, seminar facilitator and USF professor of social science education.

Led by the Patel Center for Global Solutions and the Department of Secondary Education in USF’s College of Education, the program is a “reciprocal relationship” for USF because the participants get to learn from each other, Cruz said.

“USF gains the knowledge about the (worlds) the teachers come from. We get to know the world much better,” said Mark Amen, academic director of the Patel Center. “Our program is committed to developing secondary education. It’s a huge gap to fill in less rich parts of the world.”

The Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Program selected the teachers, who came from Argentina, Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Senegal and Ukraine.

Cruz said the teachers are spending two weeks on campus, two weeks of guest internships at Freedom High School and Wharton High School and then another two weeks on campus. The program will end with a conference in Omaha, Neb. on March 21.

Participating teachers will be able to improve their skills in science, math, civics and English literature and language.

“The program brings an international flair to USF. It brings different perspectives and ways of doing things into our community,” Cruz said.

Seminars are focused on anything from classroom management techniques to ways to use technology in class. The program’s syllabus provides a structured course load for the teachers, Cruz said.

“Two primary goals for the program are that we hope to foster professional and personal relationships between American and international teachers and to contribute to the improvement of secondary education in the home countries of the participating teachers,” Cruz said.

TEA is part of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and is implemented by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), a non-profit organization based in the nation’s capital.

The program is funded by grants applied for by host universities. Teachers were chosen through an application process and assigned to attend the program at USF.

The teachers are “secondary-level, full-time teachers with five or more years of classroom experience in either English as a foreign language, social sciences or math and sciences,” according to the IREX Web site.

After the program, the teachers, who must have proficiency in written and spoken English, are required to continue teaching for at least five years.

“The program got started as a good combination of talented faculty, resources and experiences,” Cruz said.