Archived Stories for Union County Public Schools
Global Educator Award 2015
Sonia Ávila, a first-grade teacher from Colombia, has been recognized as a 2015 VIF Global Educator Award winner. Ávila currently teaches as a Spanish dual language immersion resident at Sun Valley Elementary School in Monroe, N.C., and is finishing her fourth year as an educator.
Ávila spends much of her time developing authentic educational projects that equip students with tools to build global competence and critical thinking skills. She feels that connecting curriculum concepts with cultural aspects of her home country is vital to her global instructional strategy.
“I like to help students compare their own cultural traditions with others,” Ávila said. “This could be by listening to music, playing international games, reading global literature, comparing landscapes, participating as pen pals and more.”
Ávila and her dual language immersion colleagues at Sun Valley work hard to connect students to their own cultures, as well as cultures from around the world. Most of the students talk about how they want to travel to Colombia to visit the places they learn about, and it is obvious that contact with international teachers has changed their views of the world.
“Sonia showed great enthusiasm for the VIF learning center even before arriving in the U.S. and frequently contributed photographs, videos and lesson plan ideas from her classroom in Colombia,” said VIF Manager of Dual Language Curriculum and Instructional Services Meg Van Voorhis. “Since her arrival in the U.S., Sonia continues to start discussions with other global educators and readily shares her Colombian culture with her students and other staff members.”
Ávila won a VIF Global Educator Award based on her lesson submission, “Todo sobre Colombia,” as well as her participation in the VIF learning center and dedication to teaching cultural and global concepts to her students. Her lesson plan exemplifies how to be a cultural ambassador while also teaching to Common Core standards.
“In this one project, students learn about geography, food, traditions, sports and animals in Colombia,” Ávila said. “It is also a descriptive teaching product that shows the stages of complete project-based inquiry to achieve global and curriculum goals, taking into account student interest and curiosity.”
Project-based inquiry (PBI) provides opportunities for students to explore relevant topics, investigate content and share what is learned. PBI provides a framework for daily lesson planning and implementation, sparks curiosity through investigation and exploration, offers an engaging way to introduce students to global content and allows students to take ownership of their learning.
In order to create and implement an effective PBI lesson, Ávila said she went through a number of stages.
“First, I chose the kind of product I wanted for the lesson, making sure it achieved curriculum standards,” she said.
At this point in the process, Ávila said she determined the type of assessments students would use, including self-assessments and overall project assessments.
The next step was determining a compelling question, with an accompanying activity, for students to explore their previous knowledge about the subject, in this case Colombia. Once her compelling question was created, Ávila connected it with global content, ensuring that students would have both cultural and academic outcomes.
It was necessary to then prepare classroom resources and plan the sequence of activities, Ávila added, pushing for constant student collaboration and reflection.
“After this, students needed to create their final product,” she said. “I tried to give them more than one opportunity to do [the project] so they had the chance to make corrections and improve their work.”
The final piece of the process was a formal assessment to check student learning, she said. The assessment included criteria referring to the students’ learning processes, allowing them to become conscious about their learning strategies to make improvements.
“Incorporating global concepts and PBI into your lessons is easier than it appears,” Ávila said. “Most of the VIF teachers who come from Latin America are used to including students’ enthusiasm for certain topics in lesson planning, and I have noticed that bringing global content to the classroom brings further curiosity and interest in the subject.”
She brought cultural artifacts and involved students in cultural activities that provided real-life experiences into the classroom, as it allowed students to understand the wider impact of what they were learning.
“What keeps me passionate about education is the desire of helping others to become good people who can change this world to become better,” Ávila said. “I believe that all the people around the world deserve the same rights and opportunities, and that can happen through education and the understanding of different cultures.”
VIF’s Global Educator Awards recognize educators who demonstrate outstanding commitment to inspiring students, colleagues and community members to understand the world’s languages, its cultures and the diverse perspectives of all people. The annual competition is open to all teachers using VIF learning center professional development and classroom resources. Winning educators are selected based on their submission of global lesson plans that incorporate project-based inquiry approaches to teaching and learning.
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Posted with permission.
Written by: Kate Riley, VIF's Learning Center
Posted: Jun 08, 2015 by Kevin Vickers