Teachers who love PenPal Schools so much that they share it with colleagues throughout their school, state, and country often become Global Ambassadors. These teachers don’t just connect students globally, they are masters at supporting global project-based learning in their classrooms and school communities.
So what about PenPal Schools made these teachers so enthusiastic that they wanted to help spread the PenPal love? We caught up with four of our ambassadors recently to learn more about why they love PenPal Schools.
Gary Kolenbrander teachers elementary school at a charter school in Texas. He’s used PenPal Schools in multiple grades and loves how his students get the opportunity to connect with their peers around the world. Not only does PenPal Schools offer different perspectives for his students, but it “gets them curious about different cultures and countries.” This curiosity for different cultures speaks to Gary’s own interests and passions. He recently wrote about developing a growth cultural mindset and has spent many years teaching in South Korea.
Leticia has taught in a variety of settings and now supports middle school teachers in California! Leticia and her students love how creative PenPal Schools projects are. “It was amazing to see. I’d see [my students] go elsewhere to get more information, or going through the resources in our classroom, and I’d just wait and watch and ask them what they were doing. They would tell me ‘oh, this reminded me of something else we did in class.’ It was great to see them make connections.” Creativity sparked curiosity that helped her students make connections. Leticia also loved how PenPal Schools “gives them choice over how they wanted to showcase what they learned. How they wanted to present that information was the student’s choice.”
Deanna is a middle school teacher in Montana and loves how she can implement PenPal Schools in all of her classes - and she teaches a lot of them! Deanna teaches English, science, social studies, and art, and she even used to teach a STEAM class! She told us, “I love that it gets my students out of the classroom. We live in a little rural town and everybody thinks the same. It’s hard for me to show them that not everyone lives like they live or thinks like they think. We did The World Through My Eyes, and they could not believe it. They didn’t think they were real people who really lived that way. They didn’t understand it. It’s great to open them up to things they can’t image.” Inviting global perspectives into classroom has many benefits, but it can be overwhelming for teachers. Deanna reminds us that “The social learning aspect is really powerful. As teachers, we don’t think about how powerful social learning is, but that’s how we’re learning as adults - on Twitter, with our peers. When you open your classroom up to social learning, you’re no longer teacher them. That can be hard for teachers.”
Colleen teaches middle schoolers in Missouri, and her students are almost always connected with their peers around the world! She loves that “students get to guide their own learning. They come, they get started, they get to go back and watch the video again if they don’t get it. I love the vocabulary at the bottom of the page. My students select countries that they research throughout the quarter. I do a one slide project so each student is responsible for one slide, so they become interested in their country and region. At the bottom of the article, they can select and learn more about the regions they are researching. They can really guide their own direction. I really see them taking control of their own learning. Now, the new 6th graders are a bit scared of it, but it’s cool to see them start taking direction.” Colleen also noticed that she had to let go of some control in order to let her students take ownership of their learning. “Even as a teacher, I had to learn to let go. We don’t have to watch the videos together, they can put on the headphones and watch it on their own. I had to really learn to let go. We learn together!”
Whether you want to bring diverse perspectives into your classroom, connect your students to an authentic audience, or let them take ownership of their own learning, PenPal Schools makes global project based learning easier to implement. Learn more at www.penpalschools.com.
Interested in becoming a Global Ambassador? Learn more here.