Featured Traveler: Rebecca Merriman

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 Rebecca Merriman, a kindergarten teacher at Jackson Park Elementary School in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

IMG_0449Program

Global Teachers: Germany 2014

Describe your background

I attended St. Andrews Presbyterian College where I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2005. I have taught at Moore County Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and currently teach with Kannapolis City Schools where I was named the Kannapolis City Schools 2013 Teacher of the Year. I live in Concord, NC with my husband, Tad.

How have you applied what you learned?

During my program, I recorded my experiences daily on the system-wide website. I was interviewed and shared my experiences with The Independent Tribune, The Salisbury Post, the Kannapolis City School Board, and two educational sororities.

Additionally, I created a global awareness box to share artifacts with my school and created lesson plans for my kindergarten students. I created the “Global Awareness” box with artifacts from the trip. My hope was to share the experience with teachers at my school by having something portable that they could use to enhance their lessons. The contents of the box include: Books written in German and English, Germany’s flag, maps of Germany, pictures, Euros, receipts, music, a solar powered windmill, a German girl hat and puppet, brochures and flash cards. Some teachers borrowed the box during holidays around the world, and the students loved it! I hope it will be used in Math, Literacy and Science as I have more time to work with the staff on ways that they could integrate the global awareness box into their standard lesson plans.

What have you gained from your program?

This program really opened my eyes to a different culture, educational system and sense of community.

What was your “ah ha” moment?

I’d have to say my biggest “ah ha” moment was the sense of community and connection that the people of Germany share. They truly invest in one another for the greater good of the community. They are focused on the future, not the narrow window of today. I remember sitting in a cafe for lunch and I was astonished how engaged and present the people were. Not one person had a phone out, and they were connecting with the people they were with. I hope that one day the people of United States will embrace the sense of community that I observed while traveling abroad.

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

I never dreamed that I would ever go to Germany. Without the CIU Global Teachers program, I would have never experienced the things that I did. Nor would I have had the opportunity to engage and collaborate with educators that are dedicated to the advancement of the schools of North Carolina.

Advice for future travelers

Pack light and make connections. Meredith Henderson, CIU senior program director, strongly encouraged us to only bring the necessities, but being the “fashionista” that I am, brought way too much. Leave the heels at home, and bring the most comfortable shoes you own! Also, I would strongly encourage new travelers to make connections with the people in your group. Every day I made it a goal to get to know someone new, and I’m so glad that I did! I made friends with so many wonderful people, and by not closing myself off, I was able to collaborate and engage on a much deeper level.