By Kathy Scheepers @KathyScheepers, #TeachSDGs Task Force Member
I began teaching in 1998 and quickly realized that I was a little fish in a very big pond. After 15 years in the classroom, I took a leap of faith and applied for the central position leading the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s (OCDSB) International Certificate Program (ICP) and several other initiatives with international dimensions. Some unique professional development opportunities have accompanied this role, but selecting the right ones that would elevate the program I manage were hard to pinpoint. I had to pursue my own professional development. There are so many pieces under the umbrella of Global Ed and I puzzled at how to package and book-end the plethora of resources to best support our students and the enthusiastic teachers who craved this global mindset. Now in its fifth year, the ICP is fully implemented so I have moved from managing program logistics and trouble- shooting to supporting more curriculum and extra-curricular opportunities through a global lens. Connecting with local and national NGOs, seeking local “globally focused” field trips and populating a Google+ site were just the start. In 2016, the World’s Largest Lesson really caught my attention and during my research I somehow landed on the registration page for the 2016 Global Education Forum! I was convinced this would be the best investment for elevating the ICP and it did not disappoint; I returned to Ottawa energized and enthused about all of the incredible Global Ed happenings that I had only been on the cusp of discovering. I became addicted to several hash tags and established an ever-growing PLN of like-minded global educators via Twitter. Inspired by the panel discussions, resources, passion for change and improvement, I felt right at home. Upon returning to my office, I felt an urgent need to just get out there and share all of the learning. But I had to calm myself down and make a plan.
How was I going to be able to take this to the next level in our district, provincially and even nationally? All levels of staff have so much on their plate, so how could I share this learning and the opportunities that accompany them as complementary to their current portfolios and work? There are so many motivated global educators in our district and finding a way to best support and share what we all have to offer is no easy task. The last thing I wanted was for this important movement to be viewed as a dreaded addition to an already heavy workload. Fine educators have enough on their plate and just trying to keep up with these changing times can overwhelm the best. There was already a ‘global mindset’ in our school district – it was a key part of past and present Strategic Plans for the OCDSB. Of course theory and practice risk remaining in silos, so I was determined to put a plan into action. But how? Luckily, I work in a very supportive environment with a strong focus on the reciprocity side of international education: encouraging our domestic students to engage with their world, be it through study abroad opportunities or engaging in global opportunities at a local level. The Ontario Ministry of Education released an International Education Strategy in June of 2015 so this is certainly helping the conversation at a provincial level; some common vocabulary for school districts that are at varying entry points. The Canadian Association of Public Schools – International (CAPS-I) holds an annual conference where school districts from across Canada gather and network. There is a concerted effort amongst CAPS-I member districts to engage in the reciprocity side of international education. Part of our district’s efforts to consciously internationalize at home began by establishing an International Education Advisory Committee (IEAC) in 2012. This committee helped support the development and implementation of the International Certificate Program. With the ICP in full swing, our committee refocused our objectives at the start of the 2015-2016 school year as follows:
Slowly but surely we have expanded global education opportunities to both our staff and students in a variety of ways…
Kathy Sigmund-Scheepers has been teaching since 1998 and is currently seconded to the role of International Education Coordinator for the Ottawa-Carleton Education Network, the international learning partner of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board located in Ontario, Canada. In her current role, she oversees the district's International Certificate Program that includes seeking and promoting opportunities for students to engage with their world at the local, national and international level. Kathy is married with two amazing kids. Twitter: @KathyScheepers