Paying It Forward
Earlier this spring, 59 exuberant teachers from Brazil packed classrooms on the third floor of Building 3 at Wolfson Campus as they participated in six weeks of intensive English language and pedagogical training at MDC. Studying with 11 of the College’s award-winning faculty, they took part in the new Brazil English Teachers Program recently launched by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
The teachers, all hailing from different public schools throughout nine states in northeastern and southern Brazil, not only learned new techniques for effective language instruction, but they also were introduced to a wide range of innovative MDC concepts, including the College’s award-winning Learning Outcomes and Service Learning. During MDC’s Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service events, they even joined the more than 200 College volunteers to help build an outdoor classroom, repaint basketball and volleyball courts, create murals and beautify the landscape at Madison Middle School in Liberty City.
“We had just learned the idiom ‘paying it forward,’ then we lived it working alongside MDC students fulfilling their community service commitments,” said Nilson da Silva Junior, who teaches at Romeu de Avelar High School in Maceio, Alagoas, Brazil.
Along with the rigorous curriculum that included everything from pronunciation, culture and tips for teaching critical thinking to perfecting lesson plans and integrating technology into the classroom, the program featured excursions to unique Florida sites such as Vizcaya and the Everglades. After the thrill of holding a baby alligator during the Everglades visit, one teacher who already incorporates environmental lessons in his class discussions said he planned to focus on not only Brazil’s unique natural systems but those of the U.S. as well.
“Each country has its own beautiful, irreplaceable ecosystems, from South Florida’s ’River of Grass’ to Brazil’s Pantanal, and we all play a vital role in protecting these one-of-a-kind treasures for future generations,” said Luiz Pacheco, who teaches at the Instituto Federal Baiano in Santa Inês, Brazil.
The group also spent a day at Ada Merritt Public School, the only bilingual Portuguese/English school in the United States, and they visited the Brazilian Consulate where they met with Ambassador Hélio Vitor Ramos F., Consul General of Brazil. Upon leaving the Consulate, one teacher said to Co-Director Maureen O’Hara: “For us, this is historic because in Brazil, we would never have the chance to meet an ambassador.”
The valuable lessons learned and connections made won’t stop now that this group has returned home. The program will continue for at least three more years, bringing thousands of Brazilians to the U.S.
Joining MDC and IIE in this collaboration are the Fulbright Commission in Brazil, the U.S. Embassy in Brazil and Brazilian sponsor CAPES, a foundation within the Ministry of Education in Brazil whose purpose is to improve the quality of the country’s faculty and staff in higher education.
“At a time when Brazil’s economy is expanding rapidly, and Brazil and the United States are forging unprecedented ties in trade, energy and scientific development, we look to higher education as another area where our two countries should seek stronger cooperation,” said IIE President Allan E. Goodman. “This new program will not only benefit teachers and students in Brazil but will also help to build the pipeline for more exchanges.”