6 Teachers Receive Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad Scholarship
According to one DeKalb County School District (DCSD) high school teacher, travelling abroad can provide students and educators alike with self-confidence, context, curiosity, and real-world connections to abstract problems.
Redan High School mathematics teacher Rodney Finkley will seek to prove such a sentiment in mid-June until mid-July as part of receiving the 2018 Fulbright Hays Group Project Abroad Scholarship. Finkley, along with 14 other educators from the southeast United States, will travel to the University of Ghana in Accra for five weeks of study, curriculum comparison, and education-based observation.
Finkley is one of six DCSD teachers making the trip abroad. Other educators include Courtney Mack, Michelle Simmons, Akure Imes, Debra Jeter, and Kristal Bernard.
“I feel honored,” Finkley said about receiving the scholarship. “This will add another layer to my teaching, another layer of experience to share with students. I think I’ll be able to come back with a real story about real people. I’ll be able to have conversations with students about Africa that aren’t about Tarzan or Wakanda.”
According to the program’s preliminary information for participants, the main objectives of the trip are to enrich educators’ global perspective through increasing their knowledge about Africa; work individually and in groups to develop lesson plans, instructional strategies and curriculum resources; and establish international ongoing, cross-cultural partnerships.
Another key factor in the trip is the collection of either a historical or living artifact. In Finkley’s case, he will be writing an ongoing blog.
“Through a combination of study, observations, interviews, documentations, and participation, the selected teachers will learn about the complexity of Africa’s diversity,” states the program’s FAQ.
Finkley has taken a similar trip to Indonesia in the past. The lessons gained through that trip led to the creation of Redan’s International Action (Interact) Club in 2015. Interact—which focuses on community service, leadership, and social action—will be one of the first student groups to benefit from Finkley’s trip abroad.
“We’ll be able to have new conversations about vehicles, retirement and social services,” Finkley said. “We can talk about how to leverage lifestyles [based on the country you live in]. We can talk about how [Ghanaian] students overcome certain obstacles such as transportation, obtaining basic supplies, and cultural barriers, but still manage to produce doctors.”
Finkley also plans to enrich the curriculum of students he sees on a daily basis. He cannot wait to write word problems with global contexts, such as comparing the financing of a house in Ghana versus the United States, or discuss how phone numbers are made abroad versus a students’ city of origin.
“There needs to be some context in math. Kids want to know how they will use certain things later in life,” Finkley said.
Travel, according to Finkley, opens doors for students. Even the concept of travel can inspire, build confidence, and instill a global perspective. In total, Finkley has traveled to more than 15 foreign nations, each of which has helped broaden his worldview and overall knowledge.
The best case scenario for Finkley is for a student to follow in his footsteps, or at least remember what’s possible.
“I’d like to instill a sense of confidence in students,” Finkley said. “If there’s an opportunity in Seattle, Washington, I want kids to feel like they can pursue it because of their experiences in high school. If you don’t learn about certain things and places until later in life, you may miss the boat.”
Certain destinations, he says, can even help develop a sense of identity.
“I teach predominantly African-American students. This trip will help to give me a relationship with Africa,” Finkley said. “In developing that relationship, it can help me instill a sense of pride in these students.”