Professional exchange: Nigerian educators visit UW-Green Bay

Nigerian Educators Visit UW-Green Bay, May 2013How far would you travel to become a better professional? 100 miles? Maybe 1,000 miles? A group of nine educators arrived in Green Bay April 28 after traveling nearly 6,000 miles from Nigeria in Western Africa to attend a series of seminars throughout the week. Group members came to UW-Green Bay to expand their understanding of educational practices utilized by teachers and professors in the U.S.

The UW-Green Bay Institute for Learning Partnership and Professional Program in Education are the organizations that invited the Nigerian educators to Wisconsin. Providing educational training to the Nigerian educators not only fosters international collaboration but also allows UW-Green Bay students and faculty an opportunity to learn about Nigerian culture. Timothy Kaufman, Institute for Learning Partnership director, was excited to demonstrate the University’s tradition of educational excellence.

“We’re really excited to gain this opportunity to exchange teaching practices with our Nigerian friends,” Kaufman said. “Showing off all the great partnerships we have with area schools is also exciting for us.”

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As part of the weeklong itinerary, the Nigerian educators were invited to visit Green Bay West High School, the Wisconsin International School in De Pere, a local Montessori School or the Howard-Suamico School District on Wednesday. The educators also spent time at St. Norbert College in De Pere.

Theresa Okafor is Director of QAARDAN, a Nigerian-based organization that trains teachers and encourages professional development through workshops and tours of schools located in the United Kingdom, France, Canada and the U.S. Okafor said the relationship between UW-Green Bay and QAARDAN (which stands for Quality Assurance and Research Development Agency) will provide Nigerian schools with better teachers and, ultimately, better students.

“We’re open to learn from the expertise we’ve witnessed,” Okafor said. “We’ve seen the teachers and faculty are very resourceful and experienced, everything they have had to share is research-based, evidence-based teaching strategies.”

Most events throughout the week were dedicated to professional development, but Tuesday’s (April 30) welcome reception at UW-Green Bay’s Weidner Center for the Performing Arts gave UW-Green Bay leaders an opportunity to extend thanks and appreciation to the Nigerian educators for their visit. It also gave the Nigerians an opportunity to share their cultural traditions through song and dance. To honor the travelers from Nigeria, several University dignitaries attended the gathering, including Chancellor Tom Harden.

“I’m happy to hear how much you’ve already learned, but what we’re really proud of is our teaching and the learning our students do,” Harden said. “I know you have learned some things since you arrived, but I also believe you have taught us quite a bit as well, and we need to continue learning about your culture, your arts, so we can continue to foster this friendship and an effective partnership.”

Junior Education major Liz Simon was asked to emcee portions of Tuesday’s reception. Simon’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria in 1981 and, as a soon-to-be educator, she was thrilled to meet the distinguished guests.

“I’ve heard so many stories from my parents about Nigeria, particularly the struggles involved when they emigrated from Nigeria,” Simon said. “Now to see educators from Nigeria come here to learn from us and us from them, fills me with pride.”

Understanding the American education system and becoming acquainted with strong practices in teaching and learning is the goal for the Nigerian educators. Kimberly Desotell, professional development coordinator with the Institute for Learning Partnership, said the visit would have a ripple effect for students and educators back in Nigeria.

“A lot of the experiences this week will help them better understand what are good teaching strategies and how to effectively teach their colleagues these strategies,” Desotell said. “They’re eager to learn and improve their craft in these areas so as to improve teaching and learning at their schools in Nigeria.”

When the Nigerian educators boarded their flight to traverse the 6,000 miles home, organizers said they would better equipped to teach their students — and the UW-Green Bay community would be looking forward to the next opportunity to exchange ideas with friends from across the globe. As Tuesday’s reception came to a close, Okafor noted how cultural collaboration and emphasizing similarities was an important aspect of the week’s visit.

“Learning is not just about transmission of knowledge, but is also about enriching relationships with students,” Okafor said. “We’ve noticed a lot of warmth from the people here, we have many commonalities. This is one of them.”

Story by James Taylor, University Communication intern

Photos by Mike Hoeft, Institute for Learning Partnership