Originally published August 21, 2022
From August 10th to 12th, we welcomed a delegation from Palestinian Territories to Eastern Iowa for a project titled “English Language Teaching.” This program aimed to give this group of English teachers an insight to current trends and tools of English teaching, including the use of technology, as well as give them a greater understanding of regional American history, language, and culture.
After arriving in Iowa City the day before, the delegation kicked off their first full day in Iowa with a meeting with GoMee Park, a postdoctoral scholar working at the University of Iowa Multilingual Education Department. There, they discussed the evolution of language learning and what standards and assessment tools are used to determine effectiveness. Afterwards, they walked to the Center for Language and Cultural Learning (CLCL), a language-learner technology resource hub in Phillips Hall. There, they met CLCL staff members Claire Frances, Director, and Nicole Villanueva, Instructional Services Manager, who exposed them to advances in technology that improve language acquisition.
After their meetings, the delegation had some free time before they met host Ben Hassman in Happy Hollow Park for an Iowa Table Dinner. As Co-Director of the University of Iowa Rhetoric Department Conversation Center, Ben discussed the role of practical, in-conversation language training within the overall language acquisition process before dinner. Amy Alice Chastain was also invited as a guest to discuss the role of cultural immersion and engagement in ESL programs and facilitating English language learning within a community.
“Oh my, what a wonderful night!” Ben wrote on Twitter regarding the dinner. “Such good conversation with the educators from Palestine and we spotted a hawk and a pair of deer, all while a pair were practicing baseball nearby, which lead to a whole baseball conversation.”
“My favorite part was home hospitality where we exchanged information and talked without [a] PowerPoint, just talking around the table,” said participant Maha Mansour. “Also, they were very hospitable [and] the food was tasty.”
For their final day in Iowa, the group visited the Amana Colonies as a cultural excursion. There, they toured the colonies and visited the Amana Heritage Society Museum, the Communal Kitchen Museum in Middle Amana, the High Amana General Store in High Amana, and the village church in Homestead. The group had lunch and time to explore before departing on a bus for the next part of their program in Chicago.
“[My overall experience] was very positive. From start to end I had a fulfilling experience on many levels, professionally, socially, and culturally. People were very excited to have us, they were very welcoming and engaging,” said participant Huda Odeh.
“My experience was very rich, unusual, and interesting,” said Maha Mansour. “[The volunteers] were amazing and helpful and very informative.”
Thank you to GoMee Park of the University of Iowa Multilingual Education Department and Claire Frances and Nicole Villanueva of the Center for Language and Cultural Learning for participating in this program! We would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to Melanie Haupert, Newman Abuissa, John Achrazoglou, Ben Hassman, Amy Alice Chastain, and Arnold Daniels Jr. for volunteering their time to make this delegation’s time in Eastern Iowa special.
Stay tuned for future opportunities to help connect the world and the heartland!