CSU, Chico News

International Educators in Chico for People-to-People Program

Date: 02-13-2012

Kathleen McPartland
Public Affairs
Diana Parks
International Education

The names of the countries of origin for 22 visiting educators read like a geography quiz or a United Nation’s roll call: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Colombia, Honduras, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Peru, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, Georgia and the Ukraine. The educators are participants in a six-week professional development program, Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA).

The Office of International Education (OIE), California State University, Chico is hosting the teachers of English as a Foreign Language through March 19. The program is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board.

Diana Parks, recently retired from OIE, is the director of TEA. She said that goals of these programs include enabling mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries; strengthening ties by sharing educational and cultural interests; and assisting in the development of friendly, sympathetic and peaceful relations between the U.S. and other countries.

“The TEA program positively impacts not just the participants, who are immersed in U.S. culture and society, but also our local schools and students,” said Parks.

The TEA teachers spend two of their six weeks partnering with a U.S. teacher in a local middle school or high school. Following a recent program, a U.S. teacher reflected on the impact this partnership had on the students: “It was very beneficial for my students to see Muslims as friends and to have a safe opportunity to ask questions about a Muslim culture. I think it is important for all Americans to see the human side of the countries which are in the news.”

People-to-people programs not only benefit U.S. relations with other countries, but also relations among the participants. “I love witnessing the bonding that occurs among the participants in all of our groups,” said Parks. “These professionals, from a wide variety of countries with differing political, economic, religious and educational backgrounds, become friends and colleagues after living and working together for six weeks. The world becomes a smaller and more personal place for them.”

All of the teachers have higher education degrees in their countries, but have had little or no travel outside of their countries, said Parks. “This is a highly competitive program and very prestigious in their country. When they return home each will be conducting workshops to share what they have learned here,” she said.