It’s not everyday that teachers are given an opportunity to travel to a distant land to experience first hand the cultures about which they teach. But that is precisely what five area teachers had the chance to do, thanks to the World Affairs Council of Northwest Ohio, the Turkish Cultural Foundation, and the World Affairs Council of America. The program was a rigorous cultural and academic immersion into Turkey.
“It was really a magnificent balance of learning about the arts, history, culture, cuisine, politics, the education system and more,” said Bill Hilt, a Perrysburg Junior High School teacher and member of the delegation. Twenty-three teachers from across the country took part in the first group, and 25 more are scheduled for the second group. The experience began in Istanbul and ended in Ankara with nearly 2,000 miles covered including stops in Bursa, Canakkale, Kusadasi, Pamukkale, Konya and Cappadocia.
While visiting archeological sites such as Troy and Catalhoyuk, the teachers had the chance to hear from experts in the field. They worked hand-in-hand with artists, met with and had discussions with the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Chuck Hunter and Jess Bailey, the Charge d’Affaires in the residence at Ankara. They met with teachers, students, and administrators at three different schools around the country, and heard lectures from nongovernmental organizations in education, women’s issues, the environment, as well as cultural preservation.
The program ranged from visiting excavation sites dating as far back as 6000 B.C. to viewing modern design techniques inspired by Anatolia. The tour included more than 45 hours of lectures to supplement the immersion.
“Our guide was so knowledgeable. As we rode on the bus, we continued to learn a wide range of pertinent information along the way,” said Jesse Thomas, world issues and government teacher at Penta Career Center in Perrysburg.
According to Kate Hunyor, broadcast journalism and computer applications teacher at Ottawa Hills, “the people at the Turkish Cultural Foundation went out of their way to provide a diverse and engaging program that was world-class.”
Each participant will create a lesson plan or unit based on his or her experience and the World Affairs Council of Northwest Ohio will hold an event in October to give the participants a chance to present their experiences from the tour. At this Portrait of Turkey event, to be held at the University of Toledo, members, teachers and community members will be welcome to come hear more details of the cultural study tour, as well as express interest in any further programs.
The mission of the World Affairs Council of Northwest Ohio is to promote awareness and engagement of world affairs in Northwest Ohio. The mission of the Turkish Cultural Foundation is to support the preservation and promotion of Turkish culture and heritage world-wide through original programs and cooperation with like minded organizations.
The 2014 groups will bring the total to more than 500 participating teachers since the program was initiated in 2007.