Twenty-three students and faculty from the College of Education and Human Development recently returned from a week-long international service learning experience in Belize. CEHD students traveled to two remote villages to teach pupils ages 4 to 14 math, language arts, music, life skills and more.

The primary goal of the annual trip is for education students to take what they have learned in their field and course work and implement it in a diverse and unfamiliar setting. Not only does this help instill cultural responsiveness skills in students, it also lets them act as models for the Belizean teachers to provide informal professional development in the underprivileged schools.

belize pic 2Every day, the CEHD students and their advisers piled into a van and rattled down miles of dirt road to get to the modest schools where they were greeted by 500 pupils excited to learn from them. They especially relished the luxurious teaching tools they brought, such as counting blocks and plastic clocks.

“This trip greatly impacted my teaching. I look at it in a whole new way,” said Bridget Donoghue, a student on the trip. “I learned that a really cool aspect is the relationship-building among the students — I’m not just here to teach you and tell you what to do, I can learn from the students, too.”

One of the things UofL students had to learn was how to think on their feet. They experienced a minor crisis when they found their classes much more advanced in some areas than they expected, throwing months of carefully-laid lesson plans out the window. With guidance from faculty advisers and Belizean teachers, the students were able to develop a new plan in short order that addressed their classes’ unique needs.

belize pic 3When they weren’t teaching classes, CEHD students spent time touring their host villages and meeting their residents, taking excursions to Guatemala, snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea or just splashing in the local waterfall. But for everyone involved, the best part of the trip was the teaching itself.

“We came expecting to change them, as far as instruction, but what happened was that many of us were changed and humbled by them,” said John Finch, a faculty adviser on the trip.

Another CEHD International Learning trip departed for Ireland May 20, where students will remain for a week and a half as they take classes on art therapy and comparative education and work with professionals in their areas of interest.