Three MCSD teachers receive Catherine Miller Explorer Awards

Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSATINE, Iowa–Since 2005, 35 teachers have traveled to numerous countries around the world and to almost every continent with the help of the Stanley Center for Peace and Security’s Catherine Miller Explorer Awards. This year, the Center will provide the opportunity for three more teachers to travel, Muscatine High School teachers Kindra Petersen and Aaron Smith, and Jefferson Elementary School teacher Stacey Beatty.

Petersen, who has taught English language arts at Muscatine High School for the past three years, has always had an interest in learning about other cultures. While at the University of Northern Iowa, Petersen participated in their student teaching abroad program. “I did my student teaching in Africa, and it really opened my eyes and made me a better teacher, especially for my African immigrant students,” she shared.

Because many of the students Petersen teaches come from Latin cultures, she would like to use her Catherine Miller Explorer Award to travel to Central or South America or to Spain to familiarize herself with a Latin culture and better serve even more of her students.

A 14 year veteran Muscatine Community School District teacher, Smith, who will teach ninth grade social studies courses in personal finance and geography and also advise Model UN, considered traveling with the Catherine Miller Explorer Award a natural fit for his content area. After seeing how a Fulbright experience in Germany improved his teaching, Smith would like to deepen his knowledge by visiting a Middle Eastern country, such as Israel or Palestine. By learning about the rich culture of the region, the many religions that originated in the area, and the geopolitical conflicts that have affected it, Smith hopes to expand his personal knowledge and share what he learns with his students. “I know this trip will do so much for me, personally and professionally,” he said. “It’s exciting to grow.”

Beatty has spent 15 of the 25 years she has taught with Muscatine Community School District, and for each of those years, she has applied for a Catherine Miller Explorer Award. However, because only 15 applications get randomly selected for final judging, Beatty felt astounded that hers finally made it through. “I’m so excited to share this experience with my students, and this global learning is a once in a lifetime experience,” she reflected.

Though Beatty has not yet selected which country she would like to go to, she believes traveling to Africa would have particular benefit for her students. The sixth grade social studies classes she teaches start out with a unit on water, exploring the importance of fresh water and the conflicts and displacements that occur in areas that do not have enough. By visiting some of the places students study and even getting to walk paths frequently used by refugees looking for water, Beatty believes she can bring back valuable knowledge that will bring her students’ learning to life and give them the realization that, “my teacher really went there or saw that or did that.”

Each of this year’s Catherine Miller Explorer Award recipients felt deeply grateful for the opportunities they received. “Where else in the country can you experience that? said Smith of the program.

Beatty added, “I know if there was a way for them to give every teacher this experience they would–they’re so committed.”

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