KSU Students Invited to Governor's Mansion to Share Experiences Teaching Abroad

First Lady Saundra Deal with KSU Students Jori Mosley, LaShaun Dillett, and Michaela Taylor, and KSU Vice-Provost for Global Affairs Dr. Lance AskildsonAugust 20, 2015

Three Kennesaw State University students helped Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal prepare for a summer trade mission to Brazil.

When Jori Mosley, LeShaun Dillett, and Michaella Taylor participated in a student teaching abroad program to Brazil in Spring 2015, they had no idea they would go on to become ambassadors for Brazil and Kennesaw State University. 

The three comprised a cohort of student teachers from Bagwell College of Education under the direction of Dr. Binbin Jiang that visited the American School of Rio de Janeiro (EARJ) in the spring to work with K-12 classes. EARJ is unique in that it is the only American-style school in Brazil. It offers Brazilian students access to educational programs on par with those in the United States.

“We provide an English-based instructional setting with students from over 35 different countries,” said EARJ Headmaster Andrew Sherman, a longtime strategic partner with KSU. “This exposes student teachers to a multi-cultural classroom as well as a new cultural environment, while our students get to interact with another English-speaking adult in the classroom with recent training in contemporary pedagogical practices.” 

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal learned about Kennesaw State’s relationship with EARJ while preparing for a Georgia Department of Economic Development trade mission to Brazil with her husband, Governor Nathan Deal. Mrs. Deal is passionate about educating young people, and planned to visit a school while in the country: EARJ.

“The first lady contacted KSU as soon as she learned that we had a program there,” said Dr. Lance Askildson, Kennesaw State’s Vice-Provost for Global Affairs. “She invited the student teachers and myself for lunch at the Governor’s Mansion to brief her on the trip.”

On Monday, May 11, 2015, Mosley, Dillett, and Taylor were treated to a full tour of the mansion before sitting down to discuss Brazilian culture over lunch with Mrs. Deal.  

“She wanted to gather information about Brazilian social and cultural norms through the eyes of native Georgians,” said Taylor, a senior in the Early Childhood Education program who taught fourth grade at EARJ. “She wanted to know about our everyday lives there...She was also very interested in learning about the school. She wanted to know about its layout, the students, and the overall culture.”

Mrs. Deal planned to lead a classroom reading during her visit to EARJ, and the Kennesaw State students helped her choose the right book for the occasion.

“They helped narrow down her options based on their knowledge of the school and of second-language learners in general,” Askildson said. They ultimately decided on T.J.’s Discovery, published by the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School and illustrated by Dr. Karinna Riddett-Moore. It is the story of a young girl overcoming her fear of the dark with the help of her family. The book is often used as a teaching tool to help children learn grammar and vocabulary.

Mosley, Dillett, and Taylor also gave the First Lady a photo book featuring highlights from their time student teaching in Brazil. It included images of their Brazilian classrooms, the community, and site-seeing excursions. The book also featured their written insights.

“I learned a great deal about teaching from this experience,” wrote Dillet, a senior in the Early Childhood Education program who taught second grade at EARJ. “Most importantly, though, I learned about myself and opened my eyes to a new world. I am so thankful for the opportunity to student teach abroad.”

After the meeting with Mrs. Deal, Kennesaw State’s Division of Global Affairs commissioned a special copy of T.J.'s Discovery containing Portuguese translations of the text. Mrs. Deal gifted the book to EARJ so that students could use it during their English language learning.

All of the effort the student teachers put into preparing the First Lady for her trip to Brazil paid off. Sherman says that the EARJ students thoroughly enjoyed the book and their opportunity to meet Mrs. Deal when she visited the school in June.

“She is an excellent reader and captivated the attention of our four and five-year olds with her animated storytelling,” he said.  “It was an activity where the students were engaged and it helped develop their vocabulary.”

The experience at the Governor’s Mansion also left an impression on the student teachers.

“The highlight of the lunch was being able to reflect on my own experiences in Brazil while also giving insights to Mrs. Deal,” Taylor said.

All three students graduated shortly after returning from Brazil. Taylor and Dillett earned Bachelor’s Degrees in Early Childhood Education, while Mosley earned her Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

The meeting with First Lady Deal exposed the excellence of both the international teaching abroad program and participating students, said Binbin Jiang, interim director of global engagement and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership.

"It was a perfect opportunity for the three Bagwell College of Education student teachers to share their outstanding experiences student teaching in Brazil with Mrs. Deal,” she said. “It also brought more visibility to BCOE's highly successful and well-known student teaching abroad program."

-Patrick Harbin