AUBURN, Maine — During her world history class at Edward Little High School, Erin Towns opened mail from the U.S. State Department last May and announced where they were sending her.
“I’m going to Kazakhstan!” she said.
“‘Huh? What? Kazakhstan?’” Towns recalled her students saying. “They were freaking out I was going to the land of the ‘stans.’”
Towns, 39, has won a U.S. State Department fellowship to spend two-and-a-half weeks in the Republic of Kazakhstan, a country that shares its border with Russia to the north and China to the east. It’s the ninth largest country in the world by land area.
Towns applied for a fellowship last year with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The goal is to encourage teachers to promote global awareness to students. More than 300 teachers from 47 states applied; 84 were selected.
She’s done this before.
In 2008, Towns went to Japan on a grant from the Japanese government.
Going to another country, especially one that doesn’t top tourism lists, helps make her world history teaching come alive.
“It gives me stories, adds a human element,” she said. “You understand that part of the world better, get an insight to the mentality why they do things the way they do.”
When in Kazakhstan, she’ll visit schools, historic sites, learn about the customs and culture. She’ll Skype with her high school students, her son’s Maranacook Middle School students and with elementary students in Wayne.
“I’ll give them exposure, this is what I see around me,” Towns said. With laptops the students will see what she’s seeing. Today’s students are technology savvy, she said.
Her sophomore students are already learning about Kazakhstan, posting online videos, photos and articles on Pinterest.
Distributed by MCT Information Services