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Harvard-based WorldTeach volunteers arrive in Pago Pago

By Tina Mata’afa

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, July 28, 2009) - Thirty-three WorldTeach volunteers are getting ready for the new school year in American Samoa, with classes, seminars and presentations on Samoan culture, classroom management and teaching strategies to aid in educating the territory’s youth.

The group comprised of teachers from across the U.S. that arrived July 19 is "excited and enthusiastic" as they enter the new school year American Samoa Field Director Brandi Cutler told Samoa News yesterday.

Cutler, a sociology major who holds a bachelor’s degree from Framingham State University in Masachusetts, was among the first group of educators -- 20 WorldTeach volunteers that joined the Department of Education for the 2008-2009 school year. A second teacher, Kara Higgins, has also stayed on.

"I love it here," Cutler said. "We had a really good experience last year. This new group has a lot of good energy and experience...last year in DOE we were able to fill shortages while locals joined COHORT... it’s been a really good partnership... because this is our second year, things are going to go smoother."

Brigit Porteus, a graduate of Framingham State College in Massachusetts, has four years of teaching experience in inner city Pittsburgh, Pa. and Chile, South America. She will be teaching sixth and seventh graders at Manulele Tausala Elementary School.

"I want to see physical evidence that I’m making a positive impact," the Columbus, Ohio native said. "I’m excited to meet my students. It’s going to be a good year."

Zac Loverde from Rochester, N.Y. and Daniel Lin from Connecticut, depart Tutuila to teach at Manu’a High School August 6.

Loverde, who has volunteered in Rochester and New Hampshire, says he looks forward to meeting others and learning about the Samoan culture.

Loverde and others in the group have toured the island and gone hiking. In addition to this, they have had cultural and language lessons with DOE staff, and are set to engage in a teacher practicum session next week in which they will actually begin to work with elementary and high school students in a classroom setting.

Lin, 21, was born in China and raised in New York and Connecticut. The economics and business major has spent some time teaching in summer programs with middle school students. Lin says he looks forward to the "new challenge."

"I’m looking forward to a new environment, how to approach different kinds of cultures and how to succeed in this new challenge," he said. "I’m excited to meet my students and I hope...I can learn a lot from them and they can learn a lot from me...I’m passionate about education...how to learn and give back."

He has plans to enter graduate school after his time in the territory and major in international education and development.

Matthew Thiel, 25, from Princeton N.J., is already thinking about living and teaching in American Samoa permanently. He taught last year in the Marshall Islands, under WorldTeach.

Also an economics major, Thiel will teach freshman pre-algebra at Samoana High School.

"It’s different in the Marshall Islands as far as size and logistics...I was on a very small island...we had very limited power and all our drinking water was catchment water," he said. "It was amazing and probably one of the best life experiences...I learned a lot about myself and I know I want o be teacher and stay in the Pacific. It’s my dream."

The Loyola University New Orleans graduate says the goal for his students is to prepare them for life after high school and prepare them to be globally competitive.

Said Thiel of his students, "I can’t wait to meet them— and go Sharks!"

All WorldTeach volunteers will be staying with host families this year, said Cutler, noting that the teachers are already feeling at home.

"On behalf of WorldTeach and the 33 volunteers, there is much excitement and enthusiasm as they get ready to teach the Samoan students, to learn about the Samoan culture, and for those cultural exchanges, which are really important," said Cutler. "We’ve been blessed with...Samoan hospitality and are being treated well. It is comforting as we go into the new school year."

WorldTeach is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that provides opportunities for individuals to make a meaningful contribution to international education by living and working as volunteer teachers in developing countries, states worldteach.org. It was founded by a group of Harvard students in 1986, in response to the need for educational assistance in developing countries.

In partnership with DOE, volunteers teach a variety of subjects in elementary and high school.

DOE personnel, as well as WorldTeach volunteers will meet Monday, August 3 for the DOE General Assembly that marks the start of the school year for all educators and support staff.

Public school students head back to the classroom for the 2009 to 2010 school year August 10.

(Below is a complete list of WorldTeach volunters for school year 2009 to 2010, according to a list provided to Samoa News by WorldTeach Assistant Field Director for American Samoa Lisa Behnfeldt.)

High School Teachers:

Maxwell Dunne, Samoana; Matthew Thiel, Samoana; Tanne Gabler, Samoana; Kathryn Mielnik, Leone; Dan Thanh Nguyen, Leone; Raj Borsellino, Leone; Adam Wolfe, Tafuna; Alison Bialecki, Tafuna; Benjamin Albracht, Leone; Jessica Weber, Nu’uuli Poly-Tech; Julia Cohn, Nu’uuli Poly-Tech; Charles Will, Fagaitua;

Robert Schmitz, Fagaitua; Zachary LoVerde, Manu’a; Daniel Lin, Manu’a;

Kaitlin Conrad, Manu’a; Daniel Houston, Manu’a

Elementary School Teachers

Kathleen Kasper, Leatele; Stephen Atwell, Mt. Alava;

Braden Beard, Mt. Alava; Kelly Berger, Leone Midkiff;

Cynthia Rogers, Siliaga; Sarah Stanley, Taputapu; Brigit Porteus, Manulele; Rosemary Schmidt, Lupelele; Jung Cho, Tafuna Elementary; John DeLaporte IV, Pavaiai; Molly Beebe, A.P. Lutali; Jessica Goins, Olomoana; Courtney Fields, Faleasao, Manu’a;Katherine Currie, Faleasao, Manu’a; Nathan Nyanjom, Fitiuta, Manu’a; Samuel Kim, Fitiuta, Manu’a


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