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Teachers look to summer trips to Turkey to enliven lessons, 31.07.2014

Laurel High School teacher Kathleen Murphy said her recent visit to the ruins of Troy was like taking a step three thousand years back in time, and she hopes to bring that experience to her students.

“You can see those walls, and see how effective those walls would have been in keeping out invaders,” said Murphy, who teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL. “Seeing these things in reality really helps bring to life the stories.”

Murphy is one of three Prince George’s County Public Schools teachers amongst 48 selected nationwide to take part in a two-week tour of Turkey through the Turkish Cultural Foundation’s Turkey Teacher Tours, held in partnership with the World Affairs Council of America, a nonprofit dedicated to educating Americans on international issues.

From June 27 to July 11, the group of teachers traveled to several Turkish provinces, visiting archeological sites, museums, churches and mosques, and also  speaking with Turkish scholars, educators and officials, said Flavia Favali, a Bladensburg High School English and World History teacher who also went on the tour.

“Everyone we met was so very nice and polite, so accommodating and willing to answer our questions,” Favali said.

Brigit Asana, a Laurel High School English teacher, was the third PGCPS teacher to go on the tour this year.

PGCPS spokesman Max Pugh said he was unaware of similar programs to other countries.

“We have Fulbright Scholar exchanges every so often, but that’s usually due to the individual teacher applying,” Pugh said. “We also have some school exchanges, such as when two schools declare themselves sister schools, but that’s usually a group of students accompanied by some teachers.”

Last year, Laurel High’s art director, Kevin Holder, took part in the Turkish Cultural Foundation tour.

The program, in existence for seven years, is designed to provide teachers with a better understanding of Turkey, said Amanda Stamp, Global Education Director for WAC’s Washington, D.C.,-area branch.

“The overall goal of the program is to expose teachers to the history and culture of Turkey and to help them bring that experience into their classrooms,” Stamp said.

Interested teachers take part in professional development workshops. They then must submit an application to the program, including essays on how they would bring their experience into the classroom, Asana said.

Murphy said her students will be reading “The Odyssey” and “The Iliad,” two ancient Greek stories recounting the Trojan War, which is believed to refer to an actual conflict that took place in Turkey around 1200 B.C.

Asana said she plans to bring pictures from the archeological site of Troy to help inform her students on aspects of “The Iliad.”

“It will be a wonderful experience for them to see the actual landscape where the Trojan War took place,” Asana said.

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