English Teacher Servet Altan has been teaching English at different levels for six years at IDF, Bilkent Primary School, Ankara. He is one of the participants of TASTI (Tuskish Armenian Summer Teaching Institute) program that took place in Indiana University, Bloomington in U.S.A., 2011. Approximately 25 English teachers from Turkey and Armenia were selected for this exchange program. He feels very lucky himself to have become a member of such a great community for various reasons: First of all, he had the opportunity to explore about a nation that is Turkey’s neighbour and he has always been curious to learn about. Secondly, as a participant he was offered to learn various topics such as conflict resolution, critical geography, English language teaching trends, how to use computer effectively, and Project Citizen during his six week exchange program. These topics encouraged him to think more about the variety of teaching materials that could be implemented in curriculum to teach English. Thirdly, as an English teacher he had the opportunity to share his experiences and learn from others.
One thing that impressed him the most about the program was to explore the commonalities between two cultures. Before TASTI programme, he had read from various sources about Armenian culture and history, but he was so impressed to discover that Turkish and Armenian cultures were so alike. His U.S. exchange program has definitely encouraged him to remember once more that as teachers they should teach about other cultures and respect everyone by living peacefully. Living in an international environment and exploring about a culture that had a lot of commonalities was a unique experience for him. After the program, he could easily implement most of the things that were introduced in his own school. Between September 2011 and June 2012, he coordinated a club that was called “Global Youth LEAD” (Leadership Engagement Activism and Democracy). There were 12 students and three teachers from Bilkent Primary School and 27 students and one teacher from a school in Boise, IDAHO. During one year, the students used an online forum that was provided by IDAHO Human Rights Education Center. The students discussed about a cultural issue every other week. At the end of one year, students created e-portfolios as groups to present a local problem with their alternative solutions.
TASTI program has broadened his horizons in the sense that he became more knowledgeable about human rights education and how important it is for everyone. Now, he is a member of a global community where he can talk about his career and learn from his colleages. This vision of global-mindedness has occured thanks to the TASTI program and it makes him different from his other colleagues. Therefore, he strongly recommends everyone to look for an opportunity to take part in an U.S. exchange program.
For more information on TASTI: http://turkey.usembassy.gov/tasti.html