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posted 7/1/2014

Virtual Conference Benefits US & TZ Teachers

 KITONGO – Educators from two different sides of the globe found common ground and common challenges during a virtual teacher conference. JBFC partnered with Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York to host a virtual teacher workshop where participants from both organizations could electronically meet and discuss early childhood education.

"We’ve never done anything like this before,” JBFC’s Founder Chris Gates said. "But we will definitely be doing it again. I think it was an amazing first effort. And I loved seeing the impact on the teachers who participated in the call.”

In Tanzania, JBFC teachers gathered in a hotel conference to participate in the Skype call with several teachers from Sarah Lawrence College's Early Childhood Center. Before the workshop, both sets of teachers experienced what preschool classes are like on the other side of the globe. Early Childhood Center teachers videotaped their classrooms and posted the footage to Youtube. JBFC also recorded a virtual tour of their pre-K class and posted it to Youtube.

The videos laid the ground work for the discussion, during the virtual conference on June 18th. Teachers were able to ask questions and exchange ideas about classroom design, management and resources.

"Our teachers walked away so excited and reenergized to make their classrooms better than ever and get to know their students in a completely new light,” Gates said. 

Lorayne Carbon, the Director of Sarah Lawrence’s Early Childhood Center also praised the collaboration.

"[This] is an incredible opportunity for us as educators to think more deeply about what we do on a daily basis and, the value that we place on play, the classroom environment , respect for children and development of community,” Carbon said.

"One of the Tanzanian educators described our way of working with children as ‘developing character’ and that recognition was incredibly touching,” she continued.

Despite the miles, continents and cultures that distanced them, both the American and Tanzanian educators found a lot of common ground and discovered some themes and challenges are universal, no matter where you teach.

"Speaking directly with several of the Tanzanian teachers at JBFC was a wonderfully exciting, educational, and interesting experience!” said Sonna Schupak, the lead teacher for five- and six-year-old’s at SLC’s Early Childhood Center. "The many miles between us did not seem that great, as we are all dedicated to the same things - our desire to learn as teachers and to provide the best school experiences for children that we can.”

"I really enjoyed speaking with the teachers and was really impressed with their enthusiasm and desire to connect with other teachers,” added Millie Harper, the lead teacher for four- and five-year-olds at SLC’s Early Childhood Center. "I think that some of the challenges teachers face seem to be universal (parents and their expectations, creating spaces to inspire discovery, and meeting the needs of the school's community). While cultural environments play an additional role in our approaches, we all wanted the same things for the children.”

JBFC teachers were equally enthusiastic about their new colleagues and the exchange of ideas.

"I learned new techniques and activities that I can use in my own classroom,” said Ms. Deo, a long-time preschool teacher at JBFC’s Joseph & Mary Schools. She says she plans to integrate more drawing, painting, and coloring for her young students, rather than lecturing.

All parties involved are calling the virtual teacher conference a success and hope to continue the electronic meetings and expand the partnership between JBFC and Sarah Lawrence.