Lessons Learned

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Sandy Bryan, Bagwell College of Education director of global learning focuses on diversity

The lessons Sandy Bryan learned visiting international schools as a professor of education changed her life. In turn, she is changing lives and shaping future classrooms by providing study abroad opportunities to teacher candidates in the Bagwell College of Education.

To date, Bryan has visited international schools in 25 countries and is a recognized scholar in international education.

“Wherever the school is that I am in, that’s the best school I’ve ever been in,” said Bryan, director of global learning and engagement for the Bagwell College of Education. “I have such a passion for international education, and I think that comes from the excitement and passion generated by the students when they return from a study abroad experience.”

A former member and chair of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation teams, Bryan joined the department of early childhood education faculty in 2003. A year earlier the University became a member of the Consortium for Belize Educational Cooperation, paving the way for its first student teacher exchange agreement with the University of Belize in 2004. President Daniel S. Papp renewed that agreement in February.

“Traditionally, it was very hard for student teachers to have a study abroad program,” Bryan said. “All hours for teacher candidates are prescribed. This is an opportunity for them to study abroad, while completing their capstone semester of student teaching, and still receive the credits they need for certification.”

Since 2004, 45 student teachers have taught at P-5 schools in Belize City, San Ignacio and Belmopan, Belize. They have also conducted service learning activities in Jalacte, Belize, on the Guatemala border in a rural Mayan school. And, students aren’t the only ones benefiting from this collaboration.

“More than 40 BCOE (Bagwell College of Education) and PTEU (Professional Teacher Education Unit) faculty have had the opportunity to do training abroad not only in Belize, but Mexico, China, Costa Rica and Ecuador, and this spring, teacher candidates are in Uganda for the first time,” Bryan said.

Faculty visit the international schools twice a year; once for initial training of collaborating teachers in degree requirements and a second time, midterm, for student teacher evaluations.

“When I first started visiting international schools as a professor of education, I knew I wanted my students to have that experience,” Bryan said. “The students in these international schools are multinational, multilingual and multicultural, giving our students the opportunity to transfer what they’ve learned about diversity into their own classrooms. It changes lives; it changed mine.”

Since the exchange program’s inception, it has paved the way for faculty and students in other disciplines to follow. Since 2006, Terry Powis, associate professor of anthropology, has taken 61 students to Belize to study archeology, while biology professor Joe Dirnberger has taken 73 students to Belize to study marine biology since 2008.

As part of its global engagement mission, Kennesaw State offers a certificate program for study abroad students, as well as scholarship money. To date, Bagwell College of Education and PTEU students have earned the most global engagement certificates.

“We’ve had almost 135 student teachers receive global certification, which is half of the recipients university-wide,” Bryan said. “It is one of my most exciting professional accomplishments.”

-- Jennifer Hafer