Featured Traveler of the Month: Kimberly Altman

The Center for International Understanding, 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 CIU delegation. In this special blog series, we’ll feature delegates that are making a difference in their community and applying what they learned from a CIU program.

This month, we get to know Kimberly Altman, a 4th grade teacher at Glen Arden Elementary School near Asheville.

Traveler: Kimberly Altman, M. Ed., NBCT 

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Denmark 2012

Describe your background:

I was a global citizen already, following world news and keeping up with current events. Growing up, I traveled around the Eastern U.S., but never went beyond the Central Time Zone or out of the country. After graduation, I moved to Asheville where I began teaching and continued to dream of traveling.

What have you gained from your program?

Going out of the country for the first time with strangers can be a little nerve-racking but I gained confidence within myself. Being somewhere new and without my usual support system definitely made me a little uncomfortable at times. However, that discomfort faded away.

I gained an even greater sense of the importance of a global education. Seeing my fellow participants go through the program made me realize that understanding the global system is important for life in general. I want my students to be worldly and to actively engage with the world, not be afraid of it.

How have you applied what you learned?

I have applied what I’ve learned in both my personal and professional life. Personally, I have used that trip as a springboard to take other trips that are out of my comfort zone. I’ve also become an even more avid consumer of international news and current events. I have spread the knowledge that I’ve gained in Denmark about renewable resources, livable cities, and the Danish way of governing and taking care of their citizens.

I also use that knowledge when teaching. I infuse conversations with my students with tidbits of what I learned about the Danish and shared my experience with my colleagues in an attempt to show them the importance of incorporating global themes into their classrooms.

What was your “ah ha” moment?

Teachers serve as examples to our students, and can inspire them to travel themselves or at least be a global citizen from afar. In the end, this is what we really want for our state. We want our citizens to be involved in the world in one way or another.

Why is CIU’s Global Teachers Program important to North Carolina?

Through my travels with CIU, I have become a better teacher and a better citizen of North Carolina. My students have been enriched through my experiences, my colleagues have adopted new techniques that I’ve brought back, and I have expanded my teaching methods and rethought a lot of my practices I think it’s important to take teachers out of their comfort zones.

Every day we ask our students to stretch themselves and take chances. The fear of making a wrong move can be paralyzing, and there’s no better way to create that feeling in adults like taking them to an environment they don’t know. Doing this helps teachers to reconnect with that feeling of fear in order to help students overcome their fears and forge ahead.

Advice for future travelers:

  1. Do it!
  2. Get out of the travel books, and get off the beaten path. Go somewhere unusual wherever you are. Ask locals for suggestions of restaurants, hotels and activities.
  3. Interact with locals. Try to start conversations in coffee shops, hotel lobbies and other places.
  4. Include days that have nothing on the schedule. Leave time to do unscheduled activities; these are often the best ones of the trip. Or you might just need a day to decompress.
  5. Do at least 1 thing that scares you on every trip. Whether it’s an adventure activity like whitewater rafting, trying out a new and strange (to you) food, engaging with locals, or trying to get around a city on your own, do SOMETHING that puts you out of your comfort zone. If you stay comfortable the whole time, you aren’t doing it right!
  6. Share your experiences and LAUGH about them.
  7. Pictures are great, but don’t get so caught up with the perfect shot that you forget to have (and remember) an experience.
  8. Make friends. Swap contact info with people you meet along the way, and keep in touch with them.
  9. Do it again!