Correspondence Match Educators Welcome Students, Peace Corps Volunteers Back to School
This fall, nearly 3,500 educators across the United States will introduce their students to a new member of the classroom—a Peace Corps Volunteer serving hundreds or thousands of miles away. The Correspondence Match program connects an educator and his or her students with a currently serving Peace Corps Volunteer. The result is a dynamic exchange of ideas, stories, pictures, and artifacts that helps U.S. students learn about people, environment, and culture from the experience of a Volunteer living in another country.
Coverdell World Wise Schools caught up with four Correspondence Match educators to find out how they plan to use this program to enhance their teaching. Angel Nash and Julie Santello are both elementary school teachers who are paired with Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) serving in South Africa. Angel is ready to begin her second year as a third-grade teacher at the Maret School in Washington, D.C. She is matched with PCV Janet Aldrich, who has just begun service in South Africa as a primary teacher trainer. To Angel, enrolling in the Correspondence Match program seemed a natural fit, as Janet was a science teacher at the Maret School until the end of last year, before joining the Peace Corps. Julie Santello, a second-grade teacher at Willis Elementary School in Bradenton, Florida, was invited to participate in Correspondence Match by a former student, PCV Emily Schoenfelder.
Every year the third graders at the Maret School study Africa, and students pair up to research individual countries on the continent. This year Angel looks forward to a more personal relationship between the students and their work through the Peace Corps connection. "Connectedness is a core value at Maret," she says, and she is looking forward to helping her students learn how they can use the resources of an international community. Julie Santello is also eager to draw upon her students' diversity to foster an appreciation of other cultures.
Near Richmond, Virginia, Paul Abel is gearing up for his third year as a ninth-grade English teacher at Powhatan High School . Following the suggestion of a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who joined the teaching staff last year, all of the ninth-grade English teachers enrolled together in the Correspondence Match program to enhance their students' reading, writing, and cross-cultural skills. Paul says his students enjoy learning, and that he is excited for them to use this opportunity to write to someone who is not local. In this case, that someone is Brian Jordan, who is serving in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria. Says Paul, "I wanted the students to be exposed to something other than what they're used to."
Should any of these first-time Correspondence Match educators need tips from a veteran, they could start by asking Judy Hedstrom, a fourth-grade teacher at San Lorenzo Valley Elementary School in Felton, California. Judy has just been paired with her second Peace Corps Volunteer, Amy Hanes, in Niger. Judy started in the program early in 2004 with her son Karl, who was also working in Niger, in West Africa . She remembers Karl writing answers to her students' individual questions and sending the class phrases in Zarma, a language in Karl's. For that reason, Judy requested a new PCV in a Zarma-speaking area when her son completed service. She is excited to use e-mail, letters, and her Volunteer's MySpace account to enhance her social studies curriculum this year. According to Judy, "this is a great opportunity to teach students that there are other ways of life."
Despite their different backgrounds, teaching environments, and overseas experience (one of these teachers has considered applying to be a Peace Corps Volunteer when reaching retirement), all of them agree that it is important for their students to know about the world and to understand other people. They see the Correspondence Match program as a personal and hands-on way of working toward that knowledge. If you would like to join the thousands of classrooms across the country that are bringing the world home through World Wise Schools, please visit our website for more information: www.peacecorps.gov/wws .