PEMBROKE — Paige Strickland is studying ways students from various cultures process information in her education courses at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
However, a semester crammed with lectures and research about differentiated instruction can’t compare to the experience Strickland and seven other elementary education majors received during field experience in Belize.
“My experience in Belize was life changing,” said Strickland, a senior from Lumberton. “We not only learned about the culture, but the difference in the way the teachers teach and how the teachers are educated, themselves.”
Strickland got a chance to teach a room full of pre-kindergarten students at La Isla Bonita Elementary School as part of a Belize International Study opportunity. The students also taught classes at nearby New Horizons School.
The UNCP students created and shared bilingual, tiered lessons with the Belizean teachers to model the implementation of differentiation.
“The students were really smart,” Strickland said. “The trip also helped me appreciate the little things we take for granted. For instance, instead of toy cars, the teacher cut out shapes from a cardboard box and made a car.”
Faculty members Karen Granger and Kelly Ficklin accompanied the students on the trip last semester. The trip coincided with a course focused on differentiation of instruction where future teachers study ways to meet the needs of all learners.
Granger, AIG Add-On Licensure program coordinator, said the field experience gave students an opportunity to collaborate with Belizean teachers, merging United States teaching methodologies with Belizean strategies.
“The Elementary Education majors experienced, firsthand, the commitment and work ethic of the Belizean teachers towards their students with little to no resources at all,” Granger said.
Ficklin said the students were exposed to a new culture in which funding is not provided for education in the same way it is in the United States.
“Our students learned that teaching is not about the materials in the classroom or making excuses because of the lack of materials,” said Ficklin, undergraduate Elementary Education coordinator.
“They learned that teaching is about going the extra mile to meet the needs of all students, one miracle at a time, regardless of the circumstances they may encounter,” she said.
While in Belize, the students explored natural sites, cultural sites, music, art and history. Katie Deitrick, who graduated in May, returned to Belize and accepted a teaching position at the Island Academy.