Michael Morsches, dean of Learning Enrichment and College Readiness at Moraine Valley Community College, spread education across the globe to a new community school in Irbid, Jordan. He traveled to the Arar Academy School July 26 to Aug. 9 to train the teachers and staff, and to offer a three-day English camp for 40 local students, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, and special needs students.
During the first week, Morsches taught 25 teachers and staff at the school to explore their philosophy of teaching and how to incorporate interactive, student-centered curriculum into their lessons, something Jordanian schools typically do not use. He helped the instructors identify and leverage the way they think about teaching so they could create consistent, supportive learning environments.
Although Morsches was the only Moraine Valley representative in Jordan, more than 40 faculty and staff made an impact by donating to the school, and 20 served as mentors. Via the internet, the mentors helped the instructors prepare their lessons and activities for the English camp, and were resources for the instructors to ask questions and run ideas past.
While the mentors were a support system for the trainees, both parties benefited from the relationships built. “It was an amazing experience to work with a new teacher with so much enthusiasm and a seeking mind,” said Dr. John Halliwell, assistant professor of Intensive English Language at Moraine Valley. “She was so appreciative of Michael and the workshop, and I could tell the students really benefited. She has a wonderful, fresh perspective that even energized me.”
Christian Torres, transition specialist in Adult Basic Education, said being a mentor made her reflect on the things she has learned and those she still needs to learn. “Working with a new instructor from Jordan was a very interesting and unique experience. I was happy to share not only curriculum information but also my own experience teaching. I believe education can connect people from all walks of life, and it doesn’t matter what country you are from or what language you speak. We can all speak the language of education.”
The Jordanian instructors practiced their new lessons at the English camp during week two, when the children participated in games, activities and engaging lessons as well as built their English language skills. Schools in Jordan do not receive training on educating special needs students, so much focus was placed on that population of students.
“The project was very successful! For the first time in that area, special needs children were integrated into academic and recreational activities alongside traditional students,” Morsches said. “The school now has developed inclusive programming for the community, and the Moraine Valley partners have provided full scholarships for two Syrian refugee sisters, Jaina and Zina. Moraine Valley plans to continue this collaboration and to partner on future programming aimed at serving the nontraditional populations of the area.”
After three Peace Corps tours (Jamaica, Yemen and Tanzania) Morsches began volunteering and later working for many international agencies, including the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the U.S. State Department, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of his work was in teacher training, particularly in refugee camps. In summer 2015, Morsches taught English skills and lessons to students and instructors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“I found teachers in these areas were hungry for more resources, knowledge and training that could help with the life-changing work they were involved in daily. Most importantly, many of those teachers share what they learn. This trip to Jordan was to help a group of teachers I had formerly worked with open a new school that would focus on an innovative and student-centered philosophy.”