U.S. Teacher to Bring International Education Experience to Panama

Faith Ibarra, 2016 Panama Teacher Match Volunteer

Nothing is as exciting as the opportunity to travel the world, visit new places, and experience new cultures.  For a teacher like me, travel is a great way to connect with professionals and students from different backgrounds, and with different teaching and learning methodologies. When I learned about Partners’ Panama Teacher Match program, I had to apply. Panama Teacher Match sends a cohort of U.S. teachers abroad to Panama to share ideas and strategies with teachers and connect students on a global level. I am thrilled to say I was one of 18 teachers accepted.

I am one of the lucky people who can say, "I do what I love and love what I do." I have been teaching middle school English for 16 years now - 11 in South Florida and five in Ashburn, VA. I also teach university level English, writing, and education courses. I love watching my students surpass their own expectations. 

As a part of the 2016 Panama Teacher Match cohort, I look forward to expanding my own global experience by submerging myself in the local culture. My ultimate goal is to develop and maintain a professional relationship with a sister school in my host city. I want to engage my students back in the States in authentic study and collaborative activities with students in Panama.

I am excited to learn about Panama’s education system and share my knowledge of  the U.S. education system.  I hope to learn about how teachers and schools in Panama tailor instructions and assessments to meet the needs of all students.

Last summer, I was lucky enough to visit schools in Brazil, where I learned about their country’s education system and shared U.S. teaching practices with Brazilian teachers. One project the other teachers and I collaborated on were “Cupcake Wars” between classes – a lesson on teamwork, reading, math, and marketing. Teams of students at three different schools worked together to create the best tasting cupcake. They then designed a marketing campaign for their product that they presented to classmates.

I also helped develop a yearlong pen pal exchange between my students inthe U.S. and a class in Brazil. The students contacted each other using Email and Skype to discuss books and social issues. They remain friends to this day. 

I believe students learn best when they are fully engaged and passionate about what they are learning. The possibility of fostering new friendships that can grow over the upcoming school year is my biggest hope for my exchange in Panama.