Higher Education Partnership Conference in Mexico

Maricy Schmitz, President of the Washington, DC Chapter of Partners of the Americas, was a speaker at the Higher Education Partnership Conference in Mexico. Her primary take-away is that connection is key and creative and fruitful collaboration in partnerships is very important.

Annual Meeting and Brunch

The Washington, DC Chapter of Partners of the Americas held its Annual Meeting and Brunch on Saturday, August 19th. The meeting was held at the Grill from Ipanema.

Our president, Maricy Schmitz, welcomed attendees and gave an update on Chapter activities.

LaShelle Richmond, Chair of the Nominations Committee, announced the election results. Don Reichley was elected Treasurer and Denise Decker was elected VP for Membership.

Partners of the Americas and iEarn Partner in Marrakech, Morocco

Partnering Super-Charges Impact

When two networks of volunteers with similar missions and different resources join forces, connections can make big differences in people’s lives. Five POA members cited the alliance between Partners of the Americas and iEARN: Learn with the World as proof in a presentation given to K-12 teachers at the annual IEARN July conference in Marrakech, Morocco from July 17-22.

Educators and students from 43 countries of the 140-nation organization came to Morocco for the event, and despite the competition from five simultaneous lectures, teachers crowded into the Partnering: A Case Study and Conversation session.

Cathy Healy, chair of the DC Partners’ youth committee, explained that while individual Partner chapters have been working with iEARN projects for 25 years, the official alliance could happen when POA broadened its bilateral structure. iEARN-USA became the first "Preferred Partner" and Cathy was named special liaison for the alliance.

Also on stage: Maricy Schmitz, DC president; Nury Penagos, Colombia-Florida; Ana MarÍa Gonzalez, Costa Rica-Oregon; and Adriana Vilela, formerly Patagonia-Montana, representing POA/iEARN from its beginning project in 1992 when virtual exchanges futuristic sci-fi through today, when iEARN teachers from several POA chapters, including BrasÍlia-DC, are giving workshops, facilitating international projects and participating in Partners and iEARN undertakings.

[By the way, Miriam Carvalho Loeb (Maricy’s daughter), 14, is stepping up to the future as a "graduate" of the iEARN conference’s concurrent Youth Summit.]

DC-BrasÍlia: Virtual exchanges since before WWW

Back when a 300-baud, dial-up modem seemed jaw-droppingly fast, the two capital cities began finding ways for their students to work together online, but it didn’t take hold until 2000, when Almerinda Garibaldi, a BrasÍlia member, founded iEARN-Brasil. Fourteen years later, Almerinda won POA’s 2014 ChangeMaker award.

Now, DC-BrasÍlia and iEARN partnering has been re-energized, Cathy said. At that moment, Márcia Pinheiro, a long-time iEARN teacher and new BrasÍlia Partner, was in Greeley, Colorado attending TRIP training, Cathy said. She explained that TRIP is an ambitious Colorado Partners initiative to annually train 14 Latin American, public-school English-language teachers in the latest methodologies. Colorado members pay all tuition costs for the one-month course ($10,000) and host the visitors in their homes. Four of this year’s teachers, including Márcia, had travel grants, which paid their airfare. All the teachers had to pay was $100 for books.

The Partnering "payoff" in changing lives? Plans called for Márcia, as a volunteer, to give workshops on what she’s learned to language teachers in her school, CIL-Taguatinga, as well as a three-month training that she and Almerinda designed in a new language center, CIL- São Sebastião, which the BrasÍlia board wants to work with. "We’re anticipating that these workshops will attract new volunteers to both organizations," said Cathy.

School is for the Birds

When Montana-Patagonia Partners wanted to compare national parks (Yellowstone and Laguna Blanca) in a new iEARN project, the Argentines felt embarrassed. "We all knew about Yellowstone," said Adriana, opening her tale about the first Partners and iEARN collaboration. "We thought our park was just a lake out in the steppes."

At the time, Adriana was a public-school English teacher in Zapala, Argentina, a windy town on the dry prairie. To everyone’s amazement, the Laguna turned out to be one of the most important nesting areas in the world for waterfowl. Before the iEARN/POA project had ended, the students had created the first tourist flyer for the park (bilingual), the superintendent of Yellowstone had visited Zapala on a POA travel grant and Adriana had a travel grant to teach iEARN workshops in Bozeman, Montana and Washington, DC. Eventually, Adriana’s local work became known worldwide and before she retired last year, she was director of educational technology for the Organization of American States.

Today, POA/iEARN birds again are soaring sky-high. Long-time Partners, Nury and Ana MarÍa (Ana MarÍa was president of Costa Rica) met at the 2015 iEARN conference in BrasÍlia, where they had partial iEARN scholarships.

When the two Partners teachers returned home, they set up a bilingual project, Guardians of the Birds, in the iEARN collaboration centre. While their students were working with each other, Nury and Ana MarÍa learned new technologies, how to facilitate a complex, multi-school global project and how to attract teachers from elsewhere to their project. The latter is what brought them to Marrakech, they explained. This was their second marketing trip of the year and included a presentation specifically about Birds2. In April, Ana MarÍa also traveled to Corrientes, Argentina to recruit at the iEARN-Latina conference.

Maricy Recaps

"Education brings people together, and sharing knowledge is empowering," said Maricy, in summary. An engineer by training, Maricy is education advisor at the Brazilian Embassy in the United States. "The iEARN conference in Marrakech was a great opportunity to meet educators and youth from many countries and to experience the vibrant culture of Morocco and the kind Moroccan hospitality. It was inspiring to see the engagement and enthusiasm of the participants."

And Miriam said it best

Back home: "Mother, where is the iEARN conference going to be next year!" said Miriam C. Loeb. She was ready to return.

Partners Convention in Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct. 26-29, 2016

DC Chapter President Maricy Schmitz attended the Partnership 2016 - Inclusion and Innovation in the Americas.