MUSCATINE, Iowa–One of Muscatine’s greatest educators, Catherine Miller, traveled extensively during her lifetime, both to expand her knowledge and to promote cultural understanding among her students in both her high school and college level classes. To honor her legacy, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security presented the 2020 Catherine Miller explorer awards to Bret Woodward and Lee Plummer, two Muscatine Community School District teachers, on Jan. 8.
Each year, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security allows local teachers at all grade levels to apply for the opportunity to study abroad over the summer in a country of their choice. Through these experiences, members of the Center hope to give teachers a more global perspective that they can share with their students, as well as giving them new knowledge that they can incorporate into their lessons in whatever subject they teach. The Stanley Center for Peace and Security has given out the award for the past 15 years and has helped 26 teachers explore approximately 30 different countries on five continents.
Woodward, an eighth-grade algebra teacher at West Middle School, will travel to Papua, New Guinea this summer. Woodward has a deep interest in learning more about the rain forest but wanted to branch out and see a rain forest outside of the Amazon, where the majority of rain forest visitors go. Woodward also welcomes the opportunity to study local culture there. “With any luck, we’ll meet some indigenous people,” he added.
A teacher for the past ten years (he taught at the high school level before taking his current position at West Middle School this school year) Woodward values any opportunity he can take to bring his students a broader perspective and hopes his trip to New Guinea will help him share with them the role rainforests play in many aspects of everyday life. “I’m really, really intrigued to learn how the rainforest matters in our daily lives. Living in the Midwest, we don’t see the impact, and it’s important for the kids to see it.”
For Plummer, associate director of bands at Muscatine High School for the past several years, his Explorer Award will allow him to travel to Brazil, a country with a rich musical history. In particular, Plummer hopes to learn more about Brazilian samba and bossa nova music, two styles he would like to introduce his students to. Over the past several years, Plummer and some of his students have encountered bossa nova and samba music in several places. This inspired Plummer to learn more about it and to find more ways to incorporate it into his curriculum.
Though Plummer does not yet have specific plans for his trip, he looks forward to using the Stanley Center’s vast array of travel resources to line up a variety of musically themed tours and events to learn more about these unique styles of music and to bring back new knowledge to enrich what he does with his students.
On the afternoon of Jan. 8, Stanley Center for Peace and Security President Keith Porter surprised both teachers by presenting their awards to them during professional development time. Both expressed their thanks and gratitude for the opportunities these awards will provide. “I’m really thankful to the Stanley Center,” said Plummer. “This is something I never could have done on my own.”