Bringing other countries into the classroom
Jazmin Mier, instructional coordinator in the World Languages Department, is a citizen of the world. She has visited over 30 countries and uses this knowledge to help teachers in the district. So when she saw that the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth was offering an opportunity for 12 educators to participate in a United Arab Emirates Educator study tour this past spring, she jumped at the chance to go.
Mier and 11 other educators from around the country visited the cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai March 11-18 to make connections between classrooms in the Emirates and the United States, and for educators to share what they learned in their classrooms.
Participants had the opportunity to interact with top UAE government officials, visit internationally renowned museums, participate in cultural activities, and visit schools and universities.
Mier said she learned a lot about new initiatives that the Emirates has related to education. She was able to see some things in common between classrooms there and in Dallas ISD.
“I saw a lot of independent work,” she said. “It was not a traditional classroom where they have students sitting on their desks and working.”
“Students were very self motivated, and I can already see that in our schools. I don’t know if it was because of COVID, but I saw a lot of similarities like that and students were eager to learn,” she added. “They really were working on their assignments, as independent learners. That’s one of the things that really reminded me of our schools.”
Mier is using this new knowledge to work on lessons for district teachers to use in their classrooms. The trip was so impactful to Mier that she and Amy Anderton, director of the World Languages Department, are working on bringing Arabic classes to schools, as Arabic is one of the top five languages spoken in the district.
“We really want our students to be global citizens and for them to be aware that there are different languages out there that they can learn,” she said. “It’s very important to encourage them to be open to other cultures.”
Anderton agrees: “I clearly see how her service helps our teachers. If she can go and serve our teachers by opening new opportunities to them and opening doors and perspectives–even windows to look out of, she’s done her job. All of these world travels have done that.”
During the tour, Mier also had the opportunity to visit different places related to industries like artificial intelligence.
“They are focusing towards the future,” she said. “When we think of the Persian gulf, we think of the natural resources that they have such as petroleum. But their goal is to not be dependent on oil in 20 years.”
From what she saw, the country is building its technology, industry, and education systems to expand into other fields like artificial intelligence, she said. Another one of the takeaways from the trip was the role women play in government.
“They are intentional in having a certain number of representation of women in their government,” she said. “Not only did we meet brilliant women in government roles, we met artists, writers and teachers. It was very eye opening and motivating.”
Mier, who began working for the district in 2001 teaching Spanish at Moises E. Molina High School and then at Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School at Mountain View, has always had a passion to learn about geography, language, and culture.
“When I was little, I Ioved to look at maps,” she said. “I didn’t study geography because they didn’t have a geography major at my university, Texas Wesleyan University, but I took all the geography classes. I love learning about maps and about the people.”
As far as next steps, Mier has already begun her work in creating lessons to share with teachers of the district, which is aligned with the mission of the department—to provide instructional support to all world languages teachers through coaching, professional development, and the design of curriculum and assessments.
Part of this mission is for every student to graduate with the ability to communicate in a language that they didn’t originally come to the district with, according to Anderton.
“She has the heart of a public servant and I really see how her service to the district really helps our teachers and will have a long lasting impact for years to come,” said Anderton.