Southeast Student Teachers Embracing Learning Opportunity in Chile

EaglesCAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, March 27, 2015 – As Southeast Missouri State University prepares the next generation of teachers, it embarks on sending three education majors for the chance of a lifetime to student teach in Chile, South America, over the next six weeks.

The students are participating in a new exchange program through Eagles’ College in Iquiqué, a coastal city in northern Chile near the Bolivia and Peru borders. Eagles’ College is an English immersion school for pre-school through high school students.

Amber Matthews, a secondary education English major from St. Charles, Missouri; Rachel Davis, an elementary education major from Riverton, Illinois; and Shirley Ellis, an exceptional child education major from Kennett, Missouri, are the first Southeast students to take part in the program. Matthews will teach eighth grade, Davis will teach second grade and Ellis will teach fourth grade.

Their study abroad student teaching experience begins today.

“Chile has a special place in my heart,” Matthews said “My childhood was spent visiting relatives in Santiago, Chile, and I fell in love with the culture. In addition, I had always considered going the DoDEA upon my graduation and felt that this would be a great stepping stone to reach that goal.”

Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the College of Education at Southeast, connected with an acquaintance at Eagles’ College who thought the school would be interested in students coming from the United States to serve as English language models and share their teaching methodologies. Eventually she decided to launch the program.

The University is now collaborating with a Eagles’ College in Chile to share teaching methods and strategies across its curriculum, and four scholars from Chile will visit Southeast this summer. Additionally, Southeast alumni may soon be able to go on travel tours to Eagles’ College during the summer, according to Rogers-Adkinson.

While student teaching, Matthews said she hopes to gain a better understanding of students with TESOL needs and how to include different cultures into her lessons to create a diverse learning environment.

“I hope that the students will gain the connection to their new language skills. Using their language skills with fellow learners can only help students grow so far and I hope that with my presence they will be able to push past any barriers and grow their language skills,” Matthews said.

The Chilean experience opens opportunities that “allow students to compare the educational experience of children from a more global perspective,” Rogers-Adkinson said. “They will be able to compare methods and strategies used in the United States compared to Chile’s national curriculum. International experiences provide students with a whole new set of skills that allow them to feel more comfortable traveling abroad as an adult. This can be an intimidating process for some people. The global experiences help students better understand our global society.”

Matthews said she chose to attend Southeast because she fell in love with the University and because her father attended here. She says the field of education has always been her calling.

“It is the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life that I look forward to the most. It is that ‘ah-ha’ moment within our students we strive for and that is so rewarding. It is so rewarding when they understand the work and can excel from there to reach new heights,” Matthews said.