MUSCATINE, Iowa–As Muscatine High School teachers prepared to begin the school year, vocal music teacher Teal Burford and social studies teacher Kyle Kennedy got the surprise of their lives. At the annual Catherine Miller Explorer Awards presentation, President and CEO Keith Porter and Program Officer for Global Education Krista Regennitter named them as this year’s Catherine Miller Explorer Award recipients.
Started 17 years ago, the Catherine Miller Explorer Awards empower two teachers each year to travel to an international destination of their choice to expand their knowledge of cultures around the world and then use that knowledge to help their students become more globally aware and competent. The award also honors the memory of Catherine Miller, a beloved figure in Muscatine’s educational history who traveled extensively during her lifetime. As Regennitter explained it in a statement to the media: “In Ms. Miller’s memory, the purpose of this award is to provide teachers with an education abroad experience that will nurture global competencies, awareness, and community. Through this experience, teachers will come away with new insight into how to support students from diverse backgrounds, include global perspectives into their classroom, and expand their horizons personally and professionally.”
With her award, Burford plans to travel to West Africa to learn about their traditional music and how it continues to influence American music today. Many genres of music today, including blues, jazz, and rock, can trace their roots back to music made by slaves in the American South who originally lived in West Africa. “As a music theory teacher, I want to study the origins of Western music and American music, and West Africa is where a lot of music comes from, so I thought it would be a good place to broaden my horizons,” she shared.
Though Burford does not have specific travel plans yet, she intends to attend as many live music events as possible while in West Africa next year. “The biggest thing that I want to do is just listen,” she emphasized. “I want to hear as much music as possible.”
For first year world cultures and junior and senior economics teacher Kennedy, he looks forward to visiting a completely different part of the world by spending time in either Japan or South Korea. Through his travels, Kennedy hopes to observe the similarities and differences between Western and Southeast Asian Cultures and to bring that knowledge back to his students put their own lives into perspective. In particular, Kennedy shared an interest in visiting sites in South Korea where people from the Muscatine region would have served in the Korean War, bringing that piece of history to life for himself and his students. “I’m thinking if I went to South Korea, some of the locations would be tied to the Korean War,” he stated.
As Burford and Kennedy celebrate their nominations as the 34th and 35th Catherine Miller Explorer Award honorees, they both feel grateful to the Stanley Center for providing them with these chances to travel. “I am extremely excited–I’m completely over the moon that I get this opportunity,” beamed Burford.
“I’m speechless–I don’t really have a lot of words, but I’m excited to start planning for the trip next year,” added Kennedy.