UNC World View Pilots Teacher Student Initiative in High School Classrooms
UNC World View
Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill
Recently, 12 North Carolina high school classrooms across the state attended the first presentation in a pilot program, the Teacher Student Initiative, hosted virtually by UNC World View. Aaron Salzberg, Jennifer and Don Holzworth Distinguished Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and director of The Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke to the classes about international challenges regarding water security.
The Teacher Student Initiative provides high school teachers with professional development opportunities to expand the depth and breadth of their global knowledge by working virtually with a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty expert on a global issue. A particularly valuable aspect of this initiative is the way it virtually connects high school students, in partnership with their teacher, with UNC-Chapel Hill faculty. The end result is enhanced professional breadth for the teacher and greater global awareness for students as they become the world’s next generation of leaders.
“Teachers play an integral part in the future of these students, our state and our country,” said Charlé LaMonica, director of UNC World View. “Transformative change for a student can occur when they are engaged with a committed, knowledgeable teacher who propels them to excellence.”
Since 1998, UNC World View’s mission has been to equip K-12 and community college educators with global knowledge, best practices and resources to prepare students to engage in our interconnected world. Through a multifaceted slate of professional development offerings, the public service program connects with thousands of teachers every year in counties across the state.
Educators from various disciplines were selected from Onslow County, Duplin County and Elkin City Schools to participate in this initial phase of the initiative. Bringing Salzberg’s expertise to statewide classrooms is the initiative’s inaugural effort to develop students and teachers in tandem; fully-fledged iterations of the initiative will include a project evaluation process, and a UNC World View credential. Teachers will be eligible for continuing education credits.
In reflecting on his career in global engagement, Salzberg recalled the impact of one of his childhood social studies teachers. “She created a safe space for me, and she believed in me. To this day, I think she was the only person from that time that thought I had the potential to achieve something meaningful. I still work to make her proud.”
UNC World View helps support teachers across the state who strive for that same kind of lifelong impact.
Tackling problems through a global lens is familiar territory for Salzberg, who managed U.S. foreign policy on drinking water and sanitation, water resources management and transboundary water issues for the Department of State before joining the faculty of UNC-Chapel Hill. His talk, entitled “Water, Water Everywhere but Not a Drop to Drink,” took place April 21 and addressed international water challenges like access to water and sanitation services, water security and water, peace and security (also known as “water wars”). He’s no stranger to working with high school students, who have received his mentorship on projects and consulted him for expertise about developing their own water-related technology and organizations.
“It’s really an honor to be in high school classrooms throughout the state,” reflected Salzberg. “The teachers and students are great, and I really appreciated the opportunity to engage them on what I think is one of the most important issues we’ll face both here in the state and globally. After all, they are the ones that will solve these problems!”
The school districts that participated in the Zoom webinar were enthusiastic about the pilot. “It was such a pleasure for Elkin City Schools to participate,” said Myra Cox, Elkin City Schools superintendent. “Our teachers connected with Dr. Salzberg instantly, and the information that he shared, as well as his delivery style, made it very worthwhile for our students.”
Salzberg’s talk is the first in the Teacher Student Initiative. As the pilot phase progresses, UNC World View is conducting focus groups with teacher participants to learn about their personal engagement as well as their students’. With funding provided by the Chancellor’s Global Education Fund, the program will soon include more districts statewide, a broad range of subjects and an infrastructure for providing ongoing resources and support, including purchasing globally themed books for district libraries and media centers.