Teachers bring world to class
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
There are five teachers who, even before Sept. 11, stood out among those who bring meaning to world events for students in Hawai'i classrooms.
"As a teacher, I'm exactly where my 11 students are," Chung said. "On one hand, I hate for children to have to live through this stuff. But on the other hand, we're living history."
Chung, 43, is one of the five Hawai'i teachers who will be recognized Saturday for promoting global learning activities. The recognition ceremony will be part of the East-West Center's second annual Hawai'i International Education Week program, "Building New Bridges to Global Understanding, Friendship and Peace," at Imin Conference Center.
The other teachers are Radford High School's Leonard Wilson, 53; Suzanne Acord, 28, of Educational Laboratory School, formerly University High School; and third-grade teachers Michael Ibara, 31, and Margaret "Margi" Almony, 50, of Pu'uhale School in Kalihi Kai and 'Ahuimanu Elementary in Kane'ohe, respectively.
"International Relations" was added to St. Joseph's curriculum this year at Chung's urging. She had been pushing the course for three years.
"Sept. 11 has turned this into a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants class," said Chung, a Knoxville, Tenn., native who has taught for five years at the Hilo-based Catholic school, which has an enrollment of 240 students in Grades 7-12.
"We're looking at perspective, not just stirring up stuff," Chung said. Students are looking at economic and political issues, not only military issues related to terrorism, she added.
Chung has been active in building a Model United Nations program on the Big Island. The course in international relations is geared to that activity.
"It's role playing and we're trying to get students to be leaders for Model U.N.," she said. "It's a relatively new program on the Big Island. Of the 54 students in the program, 49 are from St. Joseph and five from Hilo High. We've sent out invitations to all the schools."
Wilson and Acord also restructured their course content to address Sept. 11 issues.
Wilson, a Learning Center coordinator and social studies teacher, describes his international studies program as a broad focus on humanity that looks at global society and America's role as a global actor. One of the books he uses is "Jihad vs. McWorld" published in 1992 and written by Benjamin Barber, a Rutgers University professor.
"The kids in our program knew jihad in a sense that jihad was a resistance to global society," said Wilson, whose entire 15-year teaching career has been spent at Radford. "Sept. 11 has changed the definition of Jihad. Prior to the horrible event, we talked about jihad as resistance to change, to technology, to global markets and particularly what we in America call equal rights.
"What surprised me most since Sept. 11 is that jihad is organized and doesn't see America as a global actor but as an evil," he said.
Wilson's 20 students meet after school four days a week.
Acord, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Yap (Federated States of Micronesia) for two years, teaches social studies to freshmen and sophomores at the former UH Lab School. She has implemented a weekly current-events day for her sophomores in which they have to make presentations on local, national and international news.
"What you want them to learn about history is why it's happening," Acord said. "Whenever we study a country, we also look at the culture and belief system. Fortunately, we're now studying the Ottoman Empire so it's a great opportunity to learn about the belief system that originated in the Middle East.
"My ninth-graders are studying history of Hawai'i," she added. "We can still tie culture and geography of the Middle East into their studies through the current events day."
Because their students are younger, Ibara and Almony take a broader approach to global studies, incorporating concepts from the Consortium for Teaching Asia Pacific in the Schools program to teach culture and compassion.
Ibara, a former Mid-Pacific Institute baseball standout, has the benefit of having visited Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos on consortium trips. "You can read books and watch videos but it doesn't compare to what you learn by being there," said Ibara, who during his seven years of teaching has stressed classroom goals centered on building a well-rounded child getting A's and B's.
"Sept. 11 reinforces my belief to create a well-rounded individual," Ibara said. "A lot of our students don't understand the magnitude, and it's not something of main interest to them because they're too young. A lot of what we teach is integrated. We might combine something in social studies with art, like creating a floating village with Popsicle sticks."
Almony has been at 'Ahuimanu Elementary School for her entire 13-year teaching career in Hawai'i. Like Ibara, she teaches math, English, social studies, science and art to one set of students in a "self-contained class" environment.
Through multicultural storybooks like "Demi," which is about a peasant girl who saves one grain of rice every day, and "Mieko," a story of Japan, World War II and the life struggles of a young girl, Almony is able to teach about multiplication as well as about compassion.
Ibara and Almony both take their students on an imaginary trip to a foreign country. The study is very detailed, from getting passports to sitting in classroom chairs arranged like seats on an airplane to sightseeing.
Saturday's event also will include cultural performances, hands-on arts and craft activities for keiki, speakers and roundtable discussions.
The program runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is open to the public. The five teachers will be recognized at 10:15 a.m.