Student teaching experience in Jamaica

January 6, 2004

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PLATTEVILLE - Traveling abroad and student teaching are just a few experiences that University of Wisconsin-Platteville student, Erin Kavanaugh, was able to enjoy prior to her graduation.

Kavanaugh, a December graduate originally from Kaukauna with an English education major and a psychology minor, traveled to Malvern, Jamaica, to take part in a three-week student teaching experience. This program was offered for the first time at UWP following its establishment through the efforts of Wally Iselin, director of clinical experience at UWP; Dave Chellevold, professor in the School of Education; and Dr. Larry Kenney, associate dean of the College of Education at UW-Whitewater. Kavanaugh, Kim Rupp (another student from UWP), Chellevold, Kenney and three students from UW-Whitewater each attended the trip.

"I had always wanted to travel to Jamaica, but the opportunity had never presented itself," Kavanaugh said. "I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience teaching in another country and see Jamaica."

While teaching in Malvern, Kavanaugh stayed with a host family whose house was located nearby in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Kavanaugh also traveled and stayed with two other students, Rupp and a UW-Whitewater student.

"I think an experience like this is so valuable because not only do we get to meet with and live with people from another country, but we got to know other students from Wisconsin as well," Kavanaugh explained.

Kavanaugh spent two weeks student teaching at Hampton High School for Girls, where she taught seventh grade language arts. During this time Kavanaugh taught over 160 students between four classes. Each class lasted approximately 35 minutes.

"A big part of the experience is to show us how schools in other countries operate," explained Kavanaugh. "We toured various schools in the area and got to really see the differences in the U.S. educational system and the Jamaican education system."

During her student teaching experience, Kavanaugh also had the opportunity to travel through other parts of Jamaica. One day was spent traveling to Kingston to visit the Bob Marley Museum. Kavanaugh also took time to visit the white sandy beaches of Negril and Montego Bay.

Reflecting back on her experience, Kavanaugh feels her travels were very beneficial to her both professionally and personally.

"One thing I realized is how lucky we are to have all the resources we do," Kavanaugh replied. "While in Jamaica, the Internet service was only usable for a week and the school library consisted mostly of outdated textbooks and magazines. It was a challenge to work with these limited resources and I think it will make me a stronger teacher in the future."

In preparing for the trip, Kavanaugh found the resources provided by UWP and UW-Whitewater to be extremely helpful. In response to recommending this program to other students, Kavanaugh replied, "I definitely would suggest to students to participate in this program. It was one of the best things I have done. I really found out a lot about the way I teach. Also, it is a great way to explore and learn about a different culture. I think it is a great way for a student to grow as a teacher and as a person."

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