Laura Duke

Hometown: Evansville, IL 
College: Education 
Major: Social Studies Education

"I seek to teach with my heart and experience rather than strictly through text books. There is not a single, specific reason that I chose social studies as my concentration, but rather multiple factors," said Duke. "History is an important aspect of social studies, but so are anthropology, psychology, and sociology. How people interact with each other, the foods they eat, their customs and values, combine to make a culture that is unlike any other. By immersing myself in Tanzanian culture, I will experience a culture quite different than my own and be able to apply what I learn to my future teaching.

"This department-led program administered by Purdue University’s College of Education includes preliminary Swahili study throughout the spring semester and 4 weeks abroad in Tanzania during summer 2018. While in Tanzania, we will continue studying Swahili, teach in local schools, and complete a service learning project. I chose this specific program in Tanzania because I want to be pushed to challenge myself and grow as a teacher. I anticipate that throughout teaching and the service project challenges will arise. We will need to adapt quickly, be flexible, and work with the resources available. The students in Tanzania will not speak fluent English, and I will not speak fluent Swahili. The process of learning how to effectively communicate with not only the students and teachers, but those living in the village where we will be staying, is an opportunity to test my adaptability and be able to use that in all aspects of my life and not just while I’m teaching. As a teacher, I will encounter students from diverse socioeconomic statuses, family structures, religions, and cultures. Such skills are vital to serving my future students to the best of my ability. Tanzania will provide a unique cultural and teaching experience that is unlike any other program offered by the College of Education at Purdue.

"As I want to potentially teach in an urban school district or a school district with a high rate of ESL learners, teaching in Tanzania will be an invaluable experience. The lesson I will gain from this experience is teaching and learning at the same time and that is an important quality to possess as a teacher. Throughout my career I will be the one teaching my students, but my students will also provide me with opportunities to learn from them. My students in Tanzania will be teaching me their language and how best to translate my knowledge to help them learn. I will need to be vulnerable and be willing to accept that I will make mistakes. Experiencing and embracing that feeling will make me a more empathetic teacher as I work with ESL students in the future who will experience similar challenges in my English-based classroom.

"Growing up, my father owned his own plastics business and was able to travel the world for company trips. He would come back from Switzerland, Kenya, Taiwan, and many other places, telling captivating stories. We owned an enormous globe that I would spin and stop on a random spot. On that random spot, I would declare that I would one day explore and experience that country. I was an ambitious, imaginative young child, but now I will fulfill some of those ambitions I’ve carried with me since elementary school.

"While I was conflicted on choosing to study abroad or return home and work, ultimately, this study abroad experience is more important than making money. I will have the rest of my life to work, but a month-long immersion trip to Tanzania is likely an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I may be able to say I care about changing social structures in American society, or that I need to be aware of how students of different backgrounds may learn in a way that requires me to be creative and inclusive of everyone. But ultimately, words are just words. I want to be able to back up my opinions and knowledge with actual experience and evidence."

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