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UNC World View's Teacher-Student Initiative connecting educators to the world

UNC Geography Professor Diego Riveros-Iregui poses for a portrait on Sept. 12, 2022. Riveros-Iregui will work with N.C. teachers to facilitate global education in K-12 schools.

The UNC World View program has worked to connect K-12 and community college educators with the surrounding world. Their Teacher-Student Initiative partners educators across North Carolina with UNC faculty.  

Teachers from a variety of subjects work with University faculty to learn more about interdisciplinary global themes and their connection to the specific subject. This gives K-12 and community college teachers the opportunity to globalize their classroom while sparking intellectual curiosity among students. 

The initiative was created to meet the demand of proficient professional development that focuses on global education, according to the UNC World View written report. 

It is a competitive, application-based program that includes K-12 and community college educators in a variety of subjects and levels of experience. Educators who complete the program receive a $500 stipend, 30 hours of professional training and coaching by UNC World View’s assistant directors. 

Pam Colbert, the Director of Global Studies and Virtual Learning at Elkin City Schools, said this program allows students to make connections with people that work all over the world with global issues.

“I want (students) to be able to really pursue careers where they have passion — something that interests them — that they enjoy what they do for a living and can also really make a difference in the world,” Colbert said.

The initiative has four goals: support educators in introducing timely global topics to students, connect students in N.C. directly with experts at UNC, provide opportunities for collaborative professional development and create impactful real-world globalized lessons that educators can share and replicate. 

The initiative started in 2021 and was implemented in a few school districts around the state with a theme focusing on water and its sociomedical impacts. The curriculum was met with positive feedback from teachers. This year, the theme has changed to shift focus on varying global topics. 

Stephanie McGirt, an English teacher at SandHoke Early College, said the program allowed her and her students to realize the impact they had on water in the local area. 

“I hope that my students walked away with a new respect for a necessary resource provided to us by our planet. We used the topic to work on our reading and writing skills, but the activities were about more than just academics,” McGirt said in an email. 

This year, the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies will work with the Teacher-Student Initiative to provide opportunities to study and celebrate the ecology of the Galapagos and Ecuadorian arts and culture. 

Professor Diego Riveros-Iregui is the co-director of the UNC Center for Galapagos Studies. The center aims to educate on multiple global disciplines and is currently celebrating its ten-year anniversary of the program’s science center in Ecuador.

“Our goal for this year is to make sure that this is not going to be just a one year event, but that we can generate something ideally the teachers can use again next year, or the year after that,” he said. 

Iregui, along with Professor Deborah Morillo of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito will meet with teachers and their students to collaborate and bring forth impactful research. 

“What this program does is connects directly the knowledge that has been gained at the University level with classrooms all over the state of North Carolina,” he said. 

Iregui will be talking to students and teachers about the research, projects and outreach conducted in Ecuador and on the Galapagos Islands.

Along with opportunities for the University to share and extend research, participating educators are given the opportunity to expand classroom knowledge. For Colbert, the main impact is knowing her students will have resources at their fingertips that they might not have otherwise had.

“I'm very grateful for the program and for World View reaching out to our district again, allowing us to participate because it's a great benefit for a very small district,” she said. 


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