More than 5,000 miles away from Central Florida, Kouffi Kouadio is an active member in his community in the Ivory Coast.
A single father and local radio host, Kouadio volunteers in the American corner in Tiassalé and teaches English in a secondary school.
He’s also a lifelong-learner who is joining 21 other teachers from around the globe in an immersion experience that’s exposing them to high school classrooms in America. Thanks to a program hosted at the University of Central Florida, the international teachers are learning about American high schools and shadowing teachers in Orange and Seminole counties to share experiences and best practices.
“I’m delighted to be here, but I’m also excited to return home and implement the teaching methods I’ve learned during my time in the U.S.,” said Kouadio. “I have noticed that the relationship between student and teachers provides students the opportunity to speak their minds without restriction. This is different than in my country, where fear plays a role in the learning process.”
UCF is one of five host universities for the Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program, which brings outstanding secondary school teachers from around the globe to the United States to develop their expertise, enhance their skills and increase their knowledge.
The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the International Research & Exchanges Board.
Twenty-two science and English teachers from 14 countries—including Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Rwanda—are spending five weeks at UCF. They first joined 83 other international participants in Washington, D.C., where they got a primer on American life and a preview of their program.
The group arrived at UCF this month and has learned about teaching methods in the U.S. and what to expect when they step into an American classroom.
Since last week, the international teachers have been sharing education strategies with teachers and interacting with students from America.
“We know that when we facilitate interaction between people from other cultures and worldviews with ourselves, we expand our understanding of the world around us,” said Tom Owens, director of UCF’s Center for Educational Research and Policy.
“When the international teachers enter Central Florida’s classrooms, students will meet someone from Uzbekistan, India or other countries they might not even be able to find on a map,” said Owens. “That undoubtedly expands students’ ideas about the world.”
Kouaido experienced that firsthand.
“When students discover you are from another country they are very interested in learning about your country. This is not the same in my country. The people in the U.S. are very curious and want to know more,” he said.
Program participants went through an intense application process run by the American embassy in their home countries that included exams, essays and interviews to narrow down the best and the brightest.
This isn’t UCF’s first experience hosting educators from abroad. This summer, the College of Education and Human Performance hosted 50 English teachers from Brazil for a program on history and culture sponsored by the Brazilian government and the Institute for International Education.
“These programs enhance UCF’s global visibility,” said Owens. “Participants marvel at UCF and our facilities and when they return home, they’ll share all the great things UCF has to offer with their students.”