Participate Learning teacher in the classroom with her students

Participate Learning is an international teacher exchange program bringing diverse perspectives and cultural awareness to schools. Their mission is “to unite our world through global learning.” The division has worked with the Participate Learning organization for more than two decades, recruiting educators from around the globe and moving them to Virginia. Over 100 new Participate Learning teachers joined PWCS this school year helping students to become global leaders and supporting PWCS Commitment 2: Positive Climate and Culture (watch here).

John D. Jenkins Elementary School is excited to welcome eight new Participate Learning teachers to their faculty, expanding their team to 11 Participate Learning educators. This significant increase demonstrates the school’s commitment to fostering a globally focused and culturally inclusive learning environment.

Principal Marlene Coleman emphasized Jenkins Elementary’s dedication to ensuring the success of these new educators. “My collaborative learning teams, support staff, and mentor teachers are really working with [the Participate Learning teachers] in these first couple of weeks of school to get them acclimated to Prince William County Public Schools. I said, ‘We have got to set them up for success because they are smart, capable, but just like any new teacher, we need to support them.’”

Hailing from Belize and needing very little support was kindergarten teacher Leilani Nah. Nah had students focused on task and engaged. Students were eager to show their work, listen, and follow directions. As Nah lined the students up for lunch, she effortlessly switched between English and Spanish, as over half of the class is multilingual learners. As they moved to lunch in silence, “Hips and lips”—one hand on the hip and one finger on the lips—it would be hard to deny the immediate impact on discipline, connection, and expectation the Participate Learning teachers bring to their classrooms.

In addition to their enthusiasm and multilingual skills, Participate Learning teachers are encouraged to set up “Cultural Corners” to share their global perspectives. Providing an opportunity for students to ask questions, explore new experiences, and learn about diverse cultures prepares students to be global collaborators, critical thinkers, responsible digital citizens, innovators and visionaries, and resilient individuals.

The exchanges between Participate Learning teachers and their students in the classroom helps develop soft skills for communication and better prepares students to engage in diverse settings, demonstrate cultural exchanges respectfully, develop prior knowledge of linguistic patterns, and be prepared to enter an ever-evolving global economy. It also makes learning authentic.

“They’re excited,” exclaimed Coleman, “and, if you can get that piece... then they can do anything.” With a positive climate and culture, students and staff are free to explore, inquire, and learn.