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UWGB hosts educators from West Africa

James Taylor, News Writer
May 8, 2013
Filed under News

Nine educators from Nigeria arrived in Green Bay April 28 to visit UW-Green Bay and other local schools to expand their knowledge of education methods used by teachers and professors in the U.S.

UWGB Institute for Learning Partnership and Professional Program in Education invited the Nigerian educators to Wisconsin. They aim to provide educational training to the Nigerian educators not only to foster international collaboration, but also to allow UWGB students and faculty an opportunity to learn about Nigerian culture.

Tim Kaufman, Institute for Learning Partnership director, enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate the university’s tradition of educational excellence.

“We’re really excited to gain this opportunity to exchange teaching practices with our Nigerian friends,” Kaufman said. “Showing off all the great partnerships we have with area schools is also exciting for us.”

As part of the weeklong itinerary, the Nigerian educators visited West High School, Wisconsin International School, Montessori School or Howard Suamico School District on Wednesday. The educators also spent time at St. Norbert’s College.

Theresa Okafor is the director of QAARDAN, a Nigerian based organization that trains teachers and encourages professional development through workshops and tours of schools in the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the U.S. Okafor said the relationship between UWGB and QAARDAN will provide Nigerian schools with better teachers and, ultimately, better students.

“We’re open to learning from the expertise we’ve witnessed,” Okafor said. “We’ve seen the teachers and faculty are very resourceful and experienced.”

Most events throughout the week were dedicated to professional development, but Tuesday’s welcome reception at the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts gave UWGB leaders an opportunity to extend thanks and appreciation to the Nigerian educators for their visit. It also gave the Nigerians an opportunity to share their cultural traditions through song and dance.

To honor the travelers from Nigeria, several university dignitaries attended the gathering, including Chancellor Thomas Harden.

“I’m happy to hear how much you’ve already learned, but what we’re really proud of is our teaching and the learning our students do,” Harden said to the guests. “I know you have learned some things since you arrived, but I also believe you have taught us quite a bit as well, and we need to continue learning about your culture, your arts, so we can continue to foster this friendship and an effective partnership.”

Student Liz Simon, junior education major, was asked to emcee portions of the welcome reception.

Simon’s parents immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria in 1981 and, as a soon-to-be educator, she was thrilled to meet the distinguished guests.

“I’ve heard so many stories from my parents about Nigeria, particularly the struggles involved when they emigrated from Nigeria,” Simon said. “Now to see educators from Nigeria come here to learn from us and us from them fills me with pride.”

Understanding the American education system and becoming acquainted with strong practices in teaching and learning is the goal for the Nigerian educators.

Kim Desotell, professional development coordinator, said the visit would have a ripple effect for students and educators back in Nigeria.

“A lot of the experiences this week will help them better understand what are good teaching strategies and how to effectively teach their colleagues these strategies,” Desotell said. “They’re eager to learn and improve their craft in these areas to improve teaching and learning at their schools in Nigeria.”

When the Nigerian educators board their flight to traverse the 6,000 miles home, they hope to be better equipped to teach their students.

Increasing the cultural exchange of communities is how UWGB Institute for Learning Partnership and the Professional Program in Education will continue to cultivate learning throughout UWGB. As the reception April 30 came to a close, Okafor noted cultural collaboration and is an important aspect of the week’s visit.

“Learning is not just about transmission of knowledge, but is also about enriching relationships with students,” Okafor said. “We’ve noticed a lot of warmth from the people here. We have many commonalities, and this is one of them.”