Southeast Missouri students and teachers have returned back their classrooms for the new school year, but four area educators are heading into the school year geared with new experiences and tools to provide more cultural education for their students. April Garner, Seth Mayes, Erica Robbins, and Andy Tilmon were selected as the pilot group for Cenet’s Cultural Classroom program, and spent a week in the Dominican Republic this summer experiencing and learning about the country’s culture.
“One of my missions in life is to bring the world to my students,” says Tilmon, a social studies teacher at New Madrid County Central High School. “That sounds cliché, but I want my students to experience and appreciate that there are other cultures than ours. That we are unique, but we have a lot in common with others as well.” All four educators were selected from a competitive pool of applicants based on their passion for international education and eagerness to integrate what they took from the trip into their own classrooms.
The trip was organized by Intentional Tours, a travel company founded by Jackson, Missouri native Jonathan Coleman. Activities included a tour of Santo Domingo with a cable car ride above areas of extreme poverty; visits with local activists, entrepreneurs, educators, and families; discussions on topics including the economy, education, and everyday life within the country; an evening of bachata lessons; and tours of a coffee plantation and women’s cooperative chocolate factory.
“Cultural awareness, sensitivity and acceptance, as well as empathy and a heightened sense of gratitude are characteristics I would like to develop among my students,” says Erica Robbins, an Intro to Foreign Languages teacher at Jackson Middle School. “My goal is to integrate my experiences to help my students truly comprehend where they come from, view the world they live in with admiration, and motivate them to mindfully participate in society in order to partake in creating a more unified global population.”
The trip was an enlightening and worthwhile experience for our staff and participants, and we look forward to holding workshops with the group later this year to facilitate international content into local classrooms. This trip is the first of many that Cenet hopes to provide in future years as a part of our larger effort to bring cultural programming to the region.