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Summer School

Posted on Monday, September 10, 2007

WYE MILLS – Six Chesapeake College faculty members traveled abroad this summer on a variety of academic missions. Their experiences, they all said, will have a positive and permanent impact on their classrooms.

Professor of Nursing Anne Ryan moderated a session on "Locus of Control as a Health Education Paradigm for the Millennial Student" during an Oxford Round Table conference for public health experts at St. Anne´s College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Forty-eight educators and other public health experts from three countries participated in the forum.

"It was truly an incredible experience to be in Oxford. It´s wonderful to be sharing information with colleagues in a place that is so rich in history and of such academic significance," Ryan said. All of the conference´s academic sessions were held in Rhodes House, home of the Rhodes Scholars of Oxford.

Ryan said that she was struck by the old academic traditions that are still alive at the colleges in Oxford.

"You see scholars in boaters and old fashioned ties ride by on bicycles. They have done that for hundreds of years and it is very much part of ambience," Ryan said.

Ryan said the trip to Oxford renewed her passion for education.

"This was truly an educational opportunity of a lifetime. I´m very grateful to Chesapeake College for helping support this international experience. I have met new colleagues with whom I can now share information and references in yet a different learning arena," Ryan said.

Juliet Smith, Developmental English Instructor, spent her summer as a WorldTeach volunteer in Costa Rica. Based at Harvard University´s Center for International Development, WordTeach has volunteer opportunities in Asia, Africa, South and Central America.

Smith went to Esperanza to teach conversational English to 7-10 graders. Esperanza is a town of about 500 people located 50 miles northeast of Costa Rica´s capitol, San Jose. She volunteered in a telesecundaria, a type of high school based on a distance education model. "The Ministry of Education developed a video-based curriculum and accompany workbooks as a means to provide secondary education in poor rural areas where few resources and instructors are available," Smith explained. "As native English speakers, WorldTeach volunteers are able to provide vital face-to-face instruction."

Smith said she was impressed with the students´ ability to learn in difficult conditions. The classes, she said, were held in a very large cement block building with a corrugated tin roof. There were no doors or windows. The one giant room was divided into four classroom spaces using portable partitions. Each "classroom" contained old wooden desks and a white board propped up against the wall.

"Given the noise, heat, bugs, and limited resources, I was impressed that students were able to maintain focus and apply themselves." Smith said.

Smith said she enjoyed working with these students as well as seeing Costa Rica´s famed natural beauty and practicing her Spanish.

As a professional opera singer, Professor of Music Bonnie Cutsforth-Huber often uses her summer break to perform. This summer, she was cast as Marcellina in the Rome Festival Opera´s production of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro."

During the summer season, Rome´s opera houses move their performances outdoors. For Cutsforth-Huber, a native of Canada, rehearsing al fresco in Rome´s notorious summer heat was a challenge. The singer said that rehearsals, which lasted 10 to 11 hours daily, took place under a blazing sun on a black painted stage. Still, it was an incredible opportunity for the music professor.

"Italians love their opera. They consider opera to be their gem, so they are very interested in seeing foreigners´ interpretation of their art form," Cutsforth-Huber said. "This particular company hires many international singers, so I worked with people from several different countries."

Cutsforth-Huber´s performance earned excellent reviews and she has been invited back to perform with the company in the summer of 2009. She will have the lead role in the company´s production of "Carmen".

Andree Fee and Dody Welsh, Chesapeake College English professors, participated in an educational exchange this summer as an expansion of the partnership between Queen Anne´s County and officials in Suzhou, China. A third Chesapeake professor, Jean Louis Marchand, accompanied Fee and Welsh, filming much of their trip.

During their time in China, the professors worked with a group of elementary school teachers and a group of secondary school teachers. Most of the teachers in the classes were women in their 20s.

Both Fee and Welsh said they enjoyed working with the Chinese teachers. Part of their mission was to share interactive teaching methods with educators who are used to a traditional lecture format. For the elementary school teachers, Fee and Welsh used many of the stories and songs that American schoolchildren love.

Marchand filmed the classroom interactions, including many of the group learning activities. The footage includes scenes of the two professors employing teaching techniques that students at Chesapeake will likely never see. In one scene, a joyous Welsh and Fee are demonstrating the hokey-pokey for their Chinese colleagues. In another, they are leading the group in a rousing chorus of "Hail to the Redskins".

Fee said that she was grateful to have visited China during a time of rapid change and growth. The trip also meant personal growth for both women. Since neither woman knew Chinese, even the most basic tasks posed challenges.

"In my previous travels, I had never felt so conspicuous or vulnerable. In China, I had to rely on help for everything. I had to be so trusting of other people because I couldn´t do it on my own," Welsh said. "This experience will help me be more understanding of my students who speak English as a second language."

Fee added, "I can´t read Chinese characters, so I needed help just to find a restroom. I now know what it means to be illiterate. That´s an important experience for a literacy teacher. I´ve experienced that feeling first hand in China."

Despite the language challenges, the two English professors said they have never been treated with the kindness and generosity shown by their Chinese hosts and students.

"Our Chinese hosts were wonderful. I´ve never been treated so well," Fee said. "Everyone we encountered seemed interested in learning about us."

Welsh said that she hopes the trip will help form lasting bonds between Chesapeake College and the city of Suzhou.

"The officials in Suzhou are putting a lot of energy and enthusiasm into this relationship with Chesapeake College and Queen Anne´s County," Welsh said. "There is great potential in this relationship and I´m excited to be a part of it."


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