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>  News Releases >   2008 >   July

Dartmouth joins Clinton Global Initiative on Latin American outreach

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/14/08 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin • (603) 646-3661

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Approximately 40 educators from throughout Mexico are at Dartmouth through July 20, working with Dartmouth's Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures (formerly the Rassias Foundation), in a new collaborative effort to transform English teaching in Mexico's public schools and universities.

The Inter-American Partnership for Education, a Clinton Global Initiative commitment, is the result of a partnership between the Rassias Center , the New York City-based Worldfund; Nextel de México and Fundación Televisa, both based in Mexico City.

Dartmouth Professor John Rassias engages two school teachers from Mexico
Dartmouth Professor John Rassias engages two school teachers from Mexico who are participants in a series of workshops geared at improving English language instruction in the country. Approximately 40 Mexican educators from public schools and universities are taking part in the programming which ends July 20. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

The program began July 8 and involves more than 10 hours of workshops and activities each day at Dartmouth. Most of these activities are taking place at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL). The visiting teachers are staying in residential housing on campus and participating in conversation with Dartmouth faculty and other educators during meals on campus.

The program was designed to address two critical educational challenges facing Mexico: spoken English instruction in Mexican public schools is limited and current pedagogical practices emphasize rote learning over critical thinking.

Chosen from an applicant pool of over 120 educators, the selected participants represent elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and universities from Chiapas to Chihuahua. The educators teach in everything from three-room rural schoolhouse to schools with large indigenous populations. All of the teachers have made a three-year commitment to the field of English language education and to the Inter-American Partnership for Education itself in the form of ongoing mentoring, outreach, and professional development.

"What these teachers have in common is a deep commitment to transforming English language education at public schools in their country," said Jim Citron, Dartmouth Class of '86, an intercultural educator and director of the program.

The theme of this year's program is "Teachers Working With Teachers: Building and Maintaining Networks" and will include an intensive Rassias Method workshop with Professor John Rassias. Rassias is the founder of the Rassias Center and creator of the Rassias Method, a trademarked, highly effective system for teaching the conversational use of second languages. This teaching system, which Rassias developed in the 1960s, has been used to train more than 165,000 Peace Corp volunteers, as well as countless students and teachers around the world.

The program was the brainchild of Luanne Zurlo, Dartmouth Class of 1987, founder and executive director of Worldfund, a US-based NGO (non-governmental organization) that supports high-quality, results-driven education in Latin America. Some presenters include: Kirby Cook Grabowski Dartmouth Class of '98, of Columbia University; Timothy Rumberger, Dartmouth Class of '86, principal of Phillips Avenue Elementary School in New Bedford, Mass.; Jay Davis, Dartmouth Class of '90, Dartmouth Education faculty member; Andrew Garrod, chair of Dartmouth's Department of Education; Lauren Clarke, executive director of the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies and Steven Atkins, a psychologist in local practice affiliated with the Dartmouth Medical School.

Additional sessions in the program will range from conversations with DCAL Director Tom Luxon and other DCAL-affiliated faculty members to a presentation by Lebanon, N.H. high school teacher Deborah Nelson on classroom management and interdisciplinary learning and visits to four local schools.

"It's heartening to have such wide-reaching participation from Dartmouth faculty and alumni who are professional educators," said Helene Rassias-Miles, executive director of the Rassias Center.

Formed by former President Bill Clinton in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative is a non-partisan catalyst for action, bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.

"Dartmouth has always emphasized innovation, education and research, so this affiliation with the Clinton Global Initiative is an ideal fit with our mission and our aspirations," said Dartmouth Provost Barry Scherr. "Through this project, the Rassias Center is having a positive impact on the lives of the Mexican workforce in such a way that the country will reap the benefits for generations."

Pilot programs in 2007, which targeted Mexican educators at both the university and secondary school levels, took place at Dartmouth and in Mexico, clearing the way for this summer's program. 

"When you educate someone, you essentially give them the tools to solve any problem in their lives," said Zurlo. "Education is such a powerful, powerful gift to give."

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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