Nichols Professor Joanne Newcombe spent part of the just-completed holiday break in Beirut, Lebanon, not on vacation but on a mission to better prepare teachers in that country.
Newcombe, who heads the Nichols Education Preparation Program and also serves as Associate Dean of Liberal Arts, made the twelve-day trip in late December to continue what she’s begun in her two previous visits—teaching teachers who work mainly at the international schools in that Middle Eastern country.
The classes taught by Newcombe took place entirely in English and covered areas such as advanced instructional strategies and teacher leadership. While the international schools in Lebanon include students from the United States, England, and Canada, she points out that about 85% of the student body comes from Lebanon, with the ability to speak English and an eye on advancing to higher education.
Newcombe takes into account the war-torn history of Lebanon, and Beirut in particular. “Many of the teachers I have grew up during the civil wars and Beirut being bombed,” she says. “They have to relate to the parents of kids in their classes about security and safety issues and help those kids deal with a society that is stable now but isn’t always. In Beirut, people are very cognizant about what’s going on around them.”
In between her visits to the country, Newcombe has stayed in touch with the teachers through Facebook and Skype.
For more than a decade, Newcombe has been making use of breaks in the Nichols academic calendar to bring her expertise to a host of other countries. She has visited Argentina eight times and Costa Rica six, as well as Trinidad, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Poland, and Kuwait and come away with an education of her own.
“I think it makes me a better teacher here at Nichols. I’ve become more sensitive to cultural differences and working with a diverse population,” Newcombe observes, adding that her experiences overseas carry into the Nichols Educational Prep program in other ways. “Our students in the United States need to get a better education about the global economy and the inter-connectedness of cultures,” she says.