York teacher named NEA global fellow

jbecknell@enquirerherald.comFebruary 18, 2014 

— Diane Brown, a York school district elementary art teacher, has been named a global teaching fellow through the National Education Association Foundation.

With the honor, Brown joins a class of 32 distinguished public school educators nationwide who will spend a year building global competency skills through both online learning and a nine-day trip to China in June.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Brown, an art teacher at York’s Hunter Street and Jefferson elementary schools, who served as the district’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. “And the caliber of the people in the group, it’s humbling to work with such accomplished people.”

Brown was nominated last year by the S.C. affiliate of the National Education Association for the NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence. After the nomination, she went through an extensive application process.

The NEA awards have different names at different stages due to sponsorships. Brown is a member of the 2014 class of the California Casualty Awards for Teaching Excellence honorees.

She and other members of the 2014 class earlier this month attended and were introduced at the NEA Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Education Gala in Washington, D.C. The trip included a visit to the Chinese embassy, a series of cultural learning activities and information about the China trip, she said.

Brown said part of the reason for her selection was likely her integration of cultural perspectives into art, a chief focus of the program.

“I do teach from a global perspective, not just talking about other cultures, but talking about where art originates in terms of history, what came before and after, and how that affect the art itself,” Brown said.

The fellowship expands on the NEA Foundation’s mission to improve student achievement by investing in public education that will prepare all students to learn and thrive in a changing world.

“In order for students to be prepared for the global age, their educators must be equipped with the knowledge, skills, and disposition to teach in the global age,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.

Sanford said the Global Learning Fellows program focuses on “supporting educators as they strengthen their global competencies: investigating the world beyond one’s immediate environment; recognizing multiple perspectives; communicating ideas effectively with diverse audiences; and taking action to improve conditions.”

Brown said educators in many countries are facing similar problems, and can learn from each other. For example, she said, schools in China face the same issue as U.S. educators in terms of bridging the achievement gap between affluent and poor children.

“The thinking is that a lot of countries are struggling to find solutions to the same problems, so if we share our ideas, it may help us find solutions quicker,” she said.

“What I’m hoping is that I can be in the position to share ideas that are working in other parts of the world and offer them as part of the solution for what’s going on in education in the United States.”

The group’s international field study in China, from June 20-30, will include visits to schools in Beijing and Xi’an to provide educators with structured opportunities to observe instruction and to interact with Chinese teachers and administrators, according to the foundation.

It also includes opportunities to investigate China’s historical and cultural significance.

In preparation, the fellows will complete an online course to provide them with a framework by examining the impact of its historical and cultural legacies on contemporary Chinese society and educational system.

The NEA Foundation has also partnered with Rosetta Stone to provide fellows with basic Mandarin language training. “As we know, language is the road map to other cultures and is therefore an important tool for building global understanding,” Sanford said.

The NEA Foundation plans to share the fellows’ experiences and observations through blog posts and photos as they travel.

At the end of the fellowship, educators begin working on a final project to create a lesson plan, unit plan, or full curriculum integrated with global competency skills. The plan will be shared with educators around the world via an open source platform.

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