Featured Traveler: Matt Scialdone

Go Global NC, through its many programs, has given North Carolina teachers and community leaders the opportunity to travel all over the globe. They have gained perspectives on education and community building in other countries, and applied that knowledge to their own communities throughout North Carolina. More than 8,000 individuals have traveled to 48 countries with a Go Global NC delegation. In this series, we’ll feature delegates that are making a difference in their community and applying what they learned from a Go Global NC program.Think you’d make a great Featured Traveler subject? Contact Kate at keruny@northcarolina.edu.

This month we get to know Matt Scialdone, an English teacher at Middle Creek High School in Apex, N.C.

Sitting with StudentProgram: Global Teachers 2016 – South Africa

How did your background as an English and African-American literature teacher affect how you approached the program?
Going into the program, I knew that I wanted to explore and study the history of apartheid in South Africa.  The American Civil Rights movement plays a large part in my teaching of To Kill a Mockingbird in English I, and it is the cornerstone to nearly everything we study in my African-American Literature course. Visiting Gandhi’s home, the Apartheid Museum, and the Hector Pietersen Memorial gave me a wealth of information to use in my classroom. That said, our daily interactions with South Africans—from all parts of the “Rainbow Nation’s” racial spectrum—gave us an insight to the ongoing effects of the struggle against apartheid in the present-day.  Nothing short of actually visiting the country and having the opportunity for those interactions could replicate those experiences.

What have you gained from participating in the program?
Beside the first ever stamp in my passport, I have gained an enormous amount of perspective as a global citizen. Staying aware of global events through the news is no match for actually spending time in another culture.

How have you/will you apply what you learned to your current position?
The information and artifacts I gathered during the program will be widely used in my classroom. Information about the struggle against apartheid will be used as we examine the American Civil Rights Movement (including contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter), and photos of South Africa’s many natural wonders will serve as inspiration for my students’ poetry.

I will also be using the theme “Don’t be afraid to try new things” as the guiding principle for a series of staff development presentations in my school and throughout Wake County.  I will be using experiences from my program in South Africa such as eating mopane worms and cage-diving with great white sharks to emphasize this idea.

IMG_0036(2)What was your “aha moment”?
Visiting the schools—both private and public—provided me with my greatest “aha moment.”  It was simultaneously comforting and disheartening to realize that our colleagues on the other side of the world were grappling with many of the same problems we face as educators.  Another enlightening moment during the school visits was hearing students referred to as “learners.”  While a minor shift in language, it was a major shift in perspective—calling students “learners” gives them agency and underscores the belief that all students have the potential to learn.

What advice do you have for other travelers?
Talk with everyone you meet in your program country.  Bus drivers, cashiers, hotel staff, restaurant servers—you will gain a real-life perspective on your program country through those interactions that you cannot gather through any other source. People love to talk about their home, and they will share it all—good and bad.

Why is the Global Teachers program important to North Carolina? Why is it important that the program continue?
North Carolina is a hub for international business (SAS, Glaxo, etc.) and education (the UNC system, Duke, etc.).  As such, we need K-12 educators who are not only globally aware, but globally active.  After my experience with Go Global NC South Africa, I can now consider myself a global citizen, a global student, and a global educator.  The program should not only continue, it should expand.  More teachers should have the opportunity to have the experiences I had with the Go Global NC team in South Africa.  Besides classroom teachers, school system administrators and state legislators could greatly benefit from the Go Global NC experience as well.

Read more about Matt’s adventure in South Africa.