Standing in a sea of booths at Fall Fest two years ago, Katie Ann Majeski, 20, chose just one: Postcards4Progress.
Majeski, a Teaching Fellow at UNC who has known she wants to be a teacher since high school, said she was drawn to the organization because it offered her another way to reach students. Postcards4Progress links students in North Carolina with those abroad through postcards and teaches children the value of multiculturalism and diversity.
“My favorite part is when you can see the connection between kids here in the U.S. and those in other countries,” Majeski said. “It is cool to see how interested and curious they are about each other.”
Majeski serves as global networking chair of P4P and creates lesson plans and makes connections with schools abroad.
The organization, which began in the summer of 2010, partners with A.L. Stanbeck Middle School in Hillsborough. Each week coordinators from P4P give a lesson on a facet of the country with whom they have teamed up that semester. In the past, P4P has worked with schools from Honduras, Uganda, Spain, Canada, Taiwan and China, among others.
The coordinator’s greatest challenge in teaching students is not correcting misconceptions but filling in the gaps of their understanding, Majeski said. For example, many students don’t realize that Taiwan and China are two different countries with vastly different cultures.
“The main thing we try to do is foster their curiosity, to make them want to know more, to get them exposed to different cultures and help them understand more about the world around them,” she said.
According to Majeski, P4P works with middle-school students because they are the most receptive to learning about other cultures. Although she has decided to teach high school, she said she is continually surprised by the creativity of the middle-school students.
“They are a bit more shy than high-schoolers, and their opinions aren’t yet fully formed,” she said. “But once you get them out of their shells, they have a lot of things to say.”
In the postcards the students exchange, Majeski said she encourages them to focus on universal subjects like a typical day at school. That way they can connect on a human level, while still seeing the subtle differences between them.
Majeski notices that by the end of the semester, children are much more open-minded about other cultures,
“It makes me proud..At the end of the day, I really do think the work we are doing is worthwhile. It’s worth working at.”
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