UVU's Global Teaching Experiences Program Prepares Future Educators for Diverse Classrooms

"Our goal is to enable our students to acquire culturally-relevant skills that will be transferrable to their own teaching practice."

Utah Valley University’s School of Education students spent part of their spring semester participating in the Global Teaching Experience program in Peru. This program provides students the opportunity to immerse themselves in culturally-diverse classrooms and engage in teaching experiences throughout the world.


“The Global Teaching Experience program prepares future educators to work effectively with diverse learners in today’s classrooms,” said Dr. Vessela Ilieva, Dean of the School of Education. “Students are given unique experiences in schools in international locations to develop knowledge of diverse educational systems and their pedagogies — they also get to practice intercultural communication in multiple settings.”


Utah’s educational climate has a growing need for teachers with culturally diverse backgrounds. According to data on the Utah State Board of Education’s website, during the 2018-2019 school year, 25% of K-12 learners belong to minority groups.


“Our goal is to enable our students to acquire culturally-relevant skills that will be transferrable to their own teaching practice,” Ilieva said


Students who traveled to Peru had the opportunity to work in the Jose Antonio Encinas School in an area called Pamplona Alta. “This is a school we have been coming to for the past five years,” said Dr. Bryan Waite, Director of Intercultural Academic Programming; Department Chair of Secondary Education and guide on the Peru experience trip.


“One of the biggest takeaways for our students on this trip was a new-found appreciation and empathy for learners of a second language. They will inevitably have second language learners in their future classrooms and this experience has given them a first-hand view of what it’s like to be a language learner. The empathy that they’ve developed on this trip will help them be more effective teachers and be able to reach more of their students in positive ways.”


Carlee Adamson is an elementary education student who said traveling to Peru was an eye-opening experience for her.


“I only speak English and I've never traveled to a place where I needed to speak anything other than English so this has been different from anything I've ever experienced,” Adamson said. “Because of this trip I have been able to see things from the point of view of a language learner, which has helped me to better understand how to help the English Language Learners (ELL) in my class [in Utah]. By interacting with the students and teachers in a language that I don't know, I've found ways to communicate other than verbally so that we can understand one another.


“I've also been very surprised by how I've been able to connect with these students despite the language barrier. These students have worked so hard to communicate with me and make that connection with me, and that is something that I want to implement into my own classroom for my own ELL students. I want to make my ELL students feel comfortable in my classroom and like they can come to me for help by building those relationships despite the language barrier. Because of this trip I know that that is a possibility.”


The Global Experience Program is offered in six locations: New Zealand, Switzerland, Portugal/ Spain, Navajo Nation, Peru and Tonga, but is only one aspect of UVU’s global initiatives. Since 2015, UVU has developed relationships with individuals in more than 78 countries or territories. Students also have the opportunity to travel through study abroad, internships, international exchanges and other teaching opportunities.


For more information on UVU’s Global Experience Program, visit https://www.uvu.edu/education/engagement/index.html.