Halfway around the world, teachers connect and learn

February 1, 2012

By Tim Belter ’13

Despite half a world of distance, educators in South Korea and the United States have plenty to study and share with each other.

That was the lesson learned by Bradley University teacher education professors Dr. Heljä Antola Crowe and Dr. Hwa Lee, who recently welcomed a group of South Korean early childhood educators to Peoria. The educators, along with Dr. SoYung Sung of Keimyung University, toured Bradley University’s campus and several area grade schools.

“We can gain a global perspective by learning from what they are doing in different countries,” Dr. Lee said.

The visit was part of an ongoing collaborative effort between Bradley University and Keimyung University. For the past couple of years, graduate students and professors from Korea have visited Bradley, and last semester Dr. Antola Crowe visited South Korea to give presentations on early childhood education and learn about Korean schools.

“I learned so much from the Korean culture just by being invited there,” she said.

The two sets of educators had many connections already, despite the ocean between them. Dr. Lee, who was born in South Korea, graduated from Keimyung University with a degree in education and English, and several of the Korean teachers taught at a school based partly on Peoria’s Valeska Hinton Early Childhood Education Center.

Dr. Lee led the group and acted as the interpreter on tours of Valeska Hinton, Northminster Learning Center and United Presbyterian Church Discover Early Learning Center. They learned about American teaching methods and saw the various facilities and programs the schools utilize before Dr. Lee brought them to Bradley for a tour of the university’s own education department.

After the tours, Dr. Antola Crowe hosted the group at her home, where they ate dinner with EHS Dean Joan Sattler, shared stories and sang songs. In both Korea and Dr. Antola Crowe’s native Finland, teachers often learn instruments like the piano or guitar and engage students with music.

“I think the artistic flair of the Korean teachers was very pronounced,” she said.

In addition to the visits between the groups of educators, there are plans to strengthen the collaboration between the universities. Later this semester, some of Dr. Antola Crowe’s education classes will work with education classes at Keimyung University along with teachers and schools in Finland and Ghana.

“This collaboration is a marvelous opportunity to see how much we share across cultures,” said Dr. Antola Crowe.