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Worldly Pursuits

Providence Day School is committed to developing student leaders who possess the necessary skills, knowledge and character traits to succeed and make a positive difference in our 21st century interconnected world.

PDS’s global emphasis is infused throughout the TK through 12th grade curriculum, through which students learn about other countries, cultures and global issues; have opportunities to participate in international travel and exchanges; attend multicultural events; receive leadership training; and more.

The school’s global-minded journey began in 2002, after then-Headmaster Gene Bratek returned from a global studies conference sponsored by World View, a public service of UNC-Chapel Hill that provides educators with professional development and resources for global education.

He was inspired by what he had learned and eager to introduce a global education program at PDS.

“Dreaming up the elements of such a program was challenging and fun,” recalled Bratek, who discussed his ideas with the Board of Trustees.

“Much to my surprise, the Trustees showed great enthusiasm for this vision,” he said. “I was charged with making it happen.”

The History Department had already been entertaining global endeavors, according to Upper School History Department Chair Ted Dickson — hosting foreign visitors through International House, sponsoring WorldQuest teams and organizing meetings of the S.P.A.M. (Society for the Political Advancement of Mankind) club, which was founded by students as a multi-partisan place to discuss and debate current local, national and international political events and issues.

The department also had been busy updating its curriculum. PDS was one of the first schools to offer the new AP World History course in 2001-02, the first academic year it was created by the College Board.

In 2003 Dickson won the U.S. State Department’s United States-Eurasia Award for Excellence in Teaching and went on a State Department-sponsored trip to Russia, where he worked and lived with teachers and their students to help build understanding between the two cultures.

Bratek wanted to find ways to share international experiences such as Dickson’s with the entire school, so he enlisted Dickson and others to explore options and possibilities.

First Steps into a Larger World

One of the school’s first actions was to introduce a speaker series that addressed global topics and events.

“We had professors from various colleges and universities agree to offer their views,” said Bratek. “These events were free and open to the public.”

Soon Anna Wilbanks was hired as the first Global Studies director. Among her initial goals was to further develop the speaker series and to organize international trips for students and teachers.

In 2004, a committee was formed to re-examine the school’s direction regarding global education.

“We took an incremental and deliberate approach, reading articles and books, researching what we were already doing on campus so we could build on existing strengths, and partnering with global groups in Charlotte and North Carolina, including World View, VIF International Education and International House,” said Dickson. “We focused on why we thought global education was important and what our vision and goals should be.”

That year, Katy Field was hired as the History Department’s first global studies teacher. She and Dickson worked together to design the new Global Issues classes and eventually the Global Leadership course.

The school’s introspective process also led to two of PDS’s most ambitious initiatives — the renowned Global Studies Diploma in 2005 (see related story on page 13) and the Global Educator Certificate (GEC) in 2008.

“Gene Bratek realized that not only was it important to get students traveling abroad to experience different cultures, it was even more important for teachers,” said Dr. Loren Fauchier, PDS’s Global Education director since 2007.

“Teachers who meaningfully travel abroad and bring that experience back to the classroom can influence students to grasp the importance of being curious about and understanding different cultures,” he said. “If teachers are excited about understanding countries, cultures and global issues, their students will be, too.”

To help offset costs associated with overseas travel, Wilbanks had applied to the Edward E. Ford Foundation, which awarded PDS a $50,000 matching gift challenge. Marc and Barbara Desoer, who were PDS parents at the time, saw the value of a global-minded faculty and fulfilled the match by making a commitment of $100,000.

“With the grant funding in hand, the Global Education office began sending Upper School teachers to various parts of the world,” said Fauchier.

The GEC has rigorous certification requirements, including travel experiences in two different parts of the world or cultures. For each trip, they study the language of the culture; visit a school or stay with a host family, if possible; document their experiences via journals and photographs; and then make presentations to the PDS community about what they’ve learned.

Since its inception, 35 teachers have completed the program, traveling to 20 countries from Japan and Egypt to Russia to Honduras. Twenty-seven are currently in the program.

5th-grade teacher Laura (Hunter) Martin ’99, who traveled to both Japan (in summer 2015) and Jordan (in March 2016) to earn her GEC, said the experiences help her to relate to her students what is going on elsewhere in the world.

“Through my trip to Amman, I was able to connect with many NGOs that are working to aid refugees in the area,” she said. “One of those relationships has developed into a yearlong service project (‘Reading for Refugees’) that the entire 5th grade is participating in this year to benefit the Collateral Repair Project.”

Over time, PDS has become even more strategic in where teachers go and what they learn and experience, said Fauchier.

“As students learn global competencies such as how to investigate and understand different worldviews, or to work and communicate respectfully with different peoples locally and globally, our teachers need to be culturally literate about key countries and cultures that our students will study,” he said. “Traveling there adds a personal dimension for the teacher to share along with all of the information available to students today.”

Broadening Borders

Since joining PDS in 2007, Fauchier has collaborated with colleagues to continually grow and improve the Global Education program.

He worked with teachers to create new curriculum, including English teacher Ian Kutner’s summer art trips to Europe, the P.E. Department’s International Games, History teacher John Compton’s Comparative Government class and many others.

Fauchier created a point system for tracking global students’ extracurricular activities and added more student trips and exchanges for Upper and Middle School students.

He also helped foster the evolution of the Global Leadership course, which now includes a trip to Washington, D.C., more leadership training and an on-campus project in addition to the signature final paper. That project focuses on addressing a global issue and is presented to a panel of teachers, parents, trustees and alumni.

“The course identifies and helps develop each student’s leadership vision and skills, and requires them to write a major research and solutions paper that strengthens their global issues thinking,” said Fauchier.

The number and type of global curriculum courses has greatly increased, as have travel abroad opportunities.

“When I first started, there were five trips offered a year. Now we offer nine to 10 trips annually with new ones developing each year, such as to Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar,” said Fauchier. “We also offer Middle School trips to places like Spain, Peru and Japan.”

And in line with PDS’s mission to inspire a sense of social responsibility, PDS has service-learning trips to South Africa, Belize and soon to Tanzania.

Campus and off-campus global activities also have expanded. In addition to the monthly Global Speakers Series, students can hear global speakers downtown at World Affairs Council Charlotte-sponsored events, and they may attend events sponsored by the American Council on Germany or the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte.  

Over the last few years, the Global Education office has organized a “Global Week” for the entire school with the motto “Excite, Educate, Empower.”  Each Global Week is linked to a global theme, such as water or environmental sustainability. 

This past year, PDS hosted its first global summit, during which students from Denmark and Nigeria joined PDS GSD students for a week of design thinking to create visions and plans to improve environmental practices on each of the students’ campuses.

“We also find teachers Skyping with their students abroad in such places as Jordan,” noted Fauchier.

Most recently, PDS was officially inducted as a member of Round Square International during the 2016 Round Square International Conference in Güby, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany in October.

PDS is one of only three schools in North America accepted into Round Square, a worldwide network of 150 schools in 40 countries across five continents who abide by holistic ideals such as service, leadership and democracy. Membership offers schools a framework for excellence and continuous improvement, along with structured opportunities to collaborate and share experiences with like-minded peers around the world.

“This network greatly expands the number of schools PDS can partner with for student and teacher interactions, both virtually and physically,” said Fauchier.

Fauchier’s Global Ed team has grown as well. In 2012, Katie Kirkland ’03 was hired as associate director and, this academic year, Jeremiah Rosenfels was hired as PDS’s third Global Leadership teacher.

Through Fauchier, PDS had a role in helping create the Global Education Benchmark Group, a network of more than 130 schools. The group’s mission is to improve global education practices and promote global citizenship. Fauchier currently serves as assistant executive director of the board.

“That group started out as an organization to look at schools like ours and what we do globally,” Fauchier said. “Now the largest independent school global education group, it’s become a force for change.”

Fauchier’s insights and experiences helped him earn the National Association of Independent School (NAIS) 2014 Global Citizen Award, presented annually to an individual for outstanding contributions to global education.

“It means a lot to me because I’ve worked hard to promote global education,” he said. “But this also brings recognition to our Global Studies Diploma program, which started (in 2005) and is now being copied in different ways by independent schools across the country.”  

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