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23 German Fulbrighters visit for intensive study of diversity, equity, inclusion

Fulbright Germany chooses college for seminar on culturally responsive teaching

“The more we know about others, the less we make up.”

This concept, put forward by Ohio State University Distinguished Professor Donna Y. Ford, is at the root of why the College of Education and Human Ecology prioritizes local and global engagement as one of its five foundational pillars.  

“When I say others, it could be regarding race, ethnicity or people living in poverty or the reverse, people with high income,” Ford said. “We want to miss those stereotypes, those biases and those lies about people we really don’t know.”

Gaining the benefits of new perspectives is why the German-American Fulbright Commission sent 23 German teachers to Ohio State and the college for 12 days in October for an in-person teacher seminar on equity, diversity and inclusion in the classroom.

The German Fulbrighters meet with Dean Don Pope-Davis (second row from front, center) to learn about the college’s faculty diversity initiative and administration of both college and university. Co-director Ivan Stefano is on dean’s left. Coordinator Zhenjie Weng, a new PhD, is front row, third from right.The visit followed more than two months of virtual professional development in spring 2021. It was hosted, as was the in-person visit, by the college and the university’s offices of Diversity and Inclusion and International Affairs in partnership with Fulbright Germany. Ford’s workshop focused on how to create a culturally responsive curriculum. 

Ivan Stefano, director of Ohio State’s Intercultural English Language Programs and co-director for the seminar, emphasized that it was the college’s first hybrid Fulbright offering.

“The online seminar prepared the teachers with the concepts, the issues, the pedagogy,” he said. “Now they have seen it in practice and had conversations with some of the university’s top scholars in enacting equity, diversity and inclusion in the classroom, in addition to our partner schools in Franklin County.”

Teacher participants describe benefits of new perspectives

Stefano and Francis Troyan, associate professor of multilingual language education and co-director for the seminar, said the teachers agreed during the debriefing that the school visits were among the most rewarding aspects of their learning about how to incorporate culturally responsive teaching into the classroom. The teachers visited both public and charter schools.

“We structured the visits using what I would call an immersion model,” Troyan said. For instance, on one school visit, “The group that visited the World Language Middle School (a Columbus City School) arrived in the morning, and each (German teacher) was matched with a teacher in their field. They shadowed that teacher for a couple of class periods. Then we met as a group with the principal to talk about the school culture, how parent outreach is facilitated and how every aspect of school culture is nurtured.”  

At the Arts IMPACT Middle School, also a Columbus City School, Stefano said the principal offered several classrooms for the Fulbrighters to visit.

German Fulbrighter Katja Krautz (second from left), from Dresden, presents the Ohio State team with a book about Dresden, a Columbus sister city. Receiving the book are (L-R) Joanna Kukielka-Blaser, director, Fulbright Scholar and Fulbright-Hays Programs, Ohio State Office of International Affairs; Ivan Stefano and Francis Troyan, seminar co-directors; Zhenjie Weng, new PhD in multilingual language education.Leila El Berins, one of the visiting Fulbrighters, teaches grades five through 10 in Heidelberg.

“When I got the invitation, I was fascinated by the topic of diversity and inclusion,” she said, “because in my class of 26 students, they are from 12 or 13 countries with many different languages and histories, and they have been in Germany for one year. Others were born in Germany, so there are huge differences.”

El Berins had not found any professional development activities as extensive as this seminar, especially ones focused on teacher training. Her interest came, in part, from her own background. Her group visited three middle schools, including the charter Arts and College Preparatory Academy.

“The school visits were amazing for me,” she said. “I’m going to talk to my art teacher and say, ‘Let’s find a way to make everybody feel welcome, to make some bigger projects to include everyone, to find talent.' When kids are good in sports, it’s easier to fit in, even if the language is difficult. But with art projects, and music, you might reach a different group of students who might hide.” 

Ulf Gerdelmann is a teacher at a comprehensive school, grades five through 10, in Wiesbaden near Frankfurt. He said he had never experienced a professional development program in diversity, equity and inclusion with as much variety. 

“And I really like that,” he said, “because it’s made me think about how to deal with LGBTQ questions, with racial questions.”

The German Fulbrighters participate in the closing ceremonies for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Classroom seminar.He cited Carlotta Penn’s workshop about incorporating multicultural children’s literature into the classroom, so students see themselves represented. Penn directs global affairs in the college’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Global Engagement.  

“I found that (workshop) inspiring,” Gerdelmann said. “You have to really look at the individual child and think, ‘What do they need? What examples should I use in my teaching?’”

From the practical point of view, he appreciated the workshop by Moira Konrad, associate professor of special education, who presented the Individual Education Program (IEP) process used in American schools. She explainedhow to set goals and described high-leverage practices for teaching students with disabilities.

Guided daily by coordinator Zhenjie Weng, the visitors engaged with additional faculty and staff, both within the college and at Ohio State.

Plans are in the works now for a new group of German teachers in 2024.

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