Western Kentucky University’s international student teaching programs have increased student employability to nearly 100 percent and WKU has partnered with schools around the world in offering international student-teaching opportunities.
The employability for education graduates with international teaching experience is so high “because all of our schools are becoming so diverse,” said director of teacher services and school relations Dr. Fred Carter, who said he consulted with about 37 superintendents on what makes graduates with international student-teaching experience employable.
“If we can bring in a new teacher who has had an experience in dealing with people who speak a different language, who has been a minority themselves in the country where they student-taught, it gives them a whole new feeling for what their kids may be experiencing,” Carter said.
Carter said he found that nationwide in 2010, only 20 percent of graduates were hired after graduating. But about 56 percent of WKU students with a teaching degree got jobs that same year.
With the number of students getting teaching jobs after graduation in the lower percentiles, Carter said he wanted to find ways in which to improve that to help ensure students get jobs. The international student teaching program was the answer, he said.
“We were about three times the national average,” Carter said. “But I thought that’s still not all that great.”
Kentucky requires a 16-week student-teaching experience. Student teachers spend 12 weeks student-teaching locally and spend four weeks teaching abroad, Carter said.
“That is a perfect blend, because during the 12 weeks locally they abbreviate their student teaching experience but they accomplish what they need for certification in Kentucky,” he said. “The four-week international location gives them such a better picture of dealing with different cultures, different ethnicities, different languages, all kinds of different socio-economic situations, all kinds of diversity.”
The countries from which they can choose have increased throughout the years, including Spain, Italy, Ecuador, Germany, Sweden, Belize, England and others with connections made internationally by students who have personal or professional ties there, or through Carter attending international student-teaching conferences, which many international administrators attend.
WKU senior Jonathon Lynn of Ghent, who is a middle grades education major, is currently in Werne, Germany, student-teaching at Anne-Frank-Gymnasium Werne and staying with a host family.
“I got lost on the way back to my host family’s house ... one of the students went out of his way to ensure that I found my way back home,” Lynn said in a Facebook message Wednesday. “This amazed me because I was a complete stranger to this individual, yet he still helped me.”
Lynn and six other WKU students arrived in Werne, Germany, this week and began their international student-teaching experience.
“The most important thing I wish to gain from my experience here is a sense of awareness for different education systems and possibly create a unique style of teaching for myself that would be a mix of what I have learned about teaching in the U.S. and Germany,” Lynn said in the message. “I believe that doing this will set me apart from the individuals I will be competing with on the education job market.”
Heike Armbrust, who lives in Werne, Germany, has been a liaison between WKU and Anne-Frank-Gymnasium Werne helping WKU students get acquainted and helping place them with host families who have children who go to the school. The stay with the host families is at no cost to the students.
Art education major Ashley Hurt, of Russellville, will be traveling to Werne, Germany, during the fall semester. Although she doesn’t know which family she will be staying with when she arrives in Germany, she’s excited about the overall cultural experience.
“I’ve never even been on a plane before,” Hurt said. “I’ve always wanted to go to a different country.”
She said she has taken German at WKU and loved it, which prompted her to decide on Germany when she made her selection.
“I don’t have any more teaching experiences, and this will make me stand out more,” Hurt said, adding that a nearly 100 percent job outcome after the international student teaching experience sounded reassuring.
For students to be considered for the international student teaching experience, they have to meet certain requirements as indicated in WKU’s teacher services international student teaching application.
WKU’s Office of Teacher Services College of Education and Behavioral Services has provided 130 scholarships to students taking part in the international student teaching program with the help of the WKU Sisterhood, which provided $40,000 in 2011 to the department to help with scholarships, Carter said.
“We keep adding countries,” Carter said. “The chance to live in someone’s home and get acquainted with their culture – that’s the best education you can have.”
— For more information about the program, visit www.wku.edu/cebs.