In Summer 2009 with support from the Ministry of Education of Gangwon Province of Korea, Gangwon International Language Institute (GILI), Associates in Cultural Exchange (A.C.E.), and Seattle Pacific University (SPU) began collaborating on a unique cross-cultural teacher education program whereby expert K-12 teachers from Gangwon Province were given extensive training at GILI in Yangyang, Korea, followed by 8 weeks of training in the U.S. The 8-week overseas training program was unique among teacher training centers across Korea and set a new standard in Korean K-12 teacher education. On Tuesday, June 25th, the 9th GILI Intensive English Teacher Overseas Training Program began its session where A.C.E and GILI established another first: a joint international symposium with representatives from the three organizations presenting on topics of relevance to educators in Korea and the U.S. The six speakers covered the influence of multiculturalism and the specific history and structure of Korean education as it grows and expands today.
Ms. Sally Thomas, A.C.E. Senior Director, opened the event welcoming the trainees, TESOL community attendees, A.C.E. staff and friends, and university partners. Next Mrs. Buwon Brown, who is married to A.C.E. Board Member Ron Brown and carries many leadership roles in the Seattle Korean community, talked about her long history with A.C.E. and encouraged the teacher trainees to be open and not waste a moment of their time in her city. Mr. Howard Kwon, A.C.E. Senior Advisor, talked about his memories of the war at the age of seven and his personal recollection of the kindness of American soldiers to his community. Finally, Ms. Jeong Eun Kim, GILI Supervisor, talked about the warm welcome the group had received and the gains she knew they would make over the next eight weeks.
The Symposium started with Mr. Lawton Hogan, GILI Instructor for two years and Korea resident for five, who shared his perspective on Korean education with an overview of its Confucian model now coupled with Korea’s meteoric economic growth since end of the war, from a GDP of $79 per capita to over $30,000. Old and new forces at work in the country’s education see an intersection of strong memorization and study skills and new initiatives like the Intensive English Teacher Overseas Training Program to develop natural spoken proficiency and cultural sophistication.
Dr. Jung (June) Hee Hyun, Assistant Professor, Counselor Education Department at Seattle Pacific University, developed a compelling argument for the overlap of responsibilities of a Korean homeroom teacher and an American school counselor. Both are concerned with a holistic picture and address the student’s personal, academic, and social life on a daily basis. The need for this support exists in two countries. Dr. Hyun also addressed her developing sense of identity since moving to America, and its influence on her professional perspective.
Two teacher trainees, Ms. Hyunju Chong and Mr. Dae Hyun, discussed the strengths of Korean education and the high level of technology and information available to every elementary school teacher in their classroom. The need to find cultural understanding to enhance their strong teaching skills and hopes to do so while studying for the next eight weeks were highlighted in an impressive English speech.
Ms. Brenna Reid, A.C.E. World Language & Culture Ambassadors (WLCA) Coordinator, shared A.C.E.’s 30 year history in foreign language education in the Puget Sound region. A glimpse of what students all over the world gain as foreign language learners was highlighted in a video presentation. WLCA alumni spoke about newfound perspectives as they approach high school on their weeks in elementary school spent in learning Spanish and among the Mandarin, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, and others that WLCA offers. The shift in worldview was embryonic during the classes themselves, but based on their testimonials will continue to develop throughout their lives.
Dr. Rick Eigenbrood, Dean of Education at Seattle Pacific University, shared his own multicultural history in a very sophisticated room. Dr. Eigenbrood is from a Dutch family and spent many years in Holland. His many siblings have names that reflect the country they were born in: those from Holland have more traditional names, those from Canada where the family later moved have more Anglican ones. Dr. Eigenbrood also highlighted the strong relationship with Seattle Pacific University and Korean institutions, including his own recent visit, and the opportunities open to the trainees and all who want to pursue educational higher learning in Seattle Pacific University’s highly regarded School of Education.
In closing, Mr. Sam Shepherd, A.C.E. Senior Vice President, wowed the crowd with trilingual greetings before writing his Korean name, bestowed by a teacher during his years living there as a young instructor, in both syllabary and Chinese character forms. He then drew a parallel between milestones in a person’s life and the influence of their location. His 20-year history growing up in Japan, working for several years and marrying in Korea, and hailing from and American family and marrying and American woman have influenced the totality of his person and perspective. He also detailed the strong influence of the Gangwon International Language Institute program on other educational systems in the region. A.C.E. serves as the North America Liaison Office of the Eiken Foundation of Japan, the dominant English language testing organization in the country. Eiken now has new ventures in curriculum development and is watching closely and learning from the successful Korean program.
Sharing different experiences and perspectives, the fifty-plus audience members came away with new understanding for their own work in teaching English to speakers of other languages, in multicultural non-profit work, in university administration, and a clear idea of the way A.C.E. and GILI are paving the way for Korean and American teachers to work together for the children of both countries and a brighter future for all. At the end of the afternoon, all were one step closer to “making the world your community.”