Oklahoma Teacher to Share African Students Stories

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – Since 2006, 439 Oklahoma teachers have traveled the world through the Fund for Teachers program.

Some have crossed the Pyrenees on horseback from France to Spain to compare the two cultures. Others explored the ecosystems of the Gulf of Alaska or toured Romania to learn about its culture and geography.

Judith Blake, a television production teacher at Norman High School, traveled last summer for five weeks to Cape Town, South Africa, where she filmed public and private high school students at four schools.

The idea was spurred by a Nigerian student in her classroom who asked why the media only seemed to portray Africans sitting in huts or in the middle of violence. “We get a skewed view of life in Africa,” Blake said.

“I was quite surprised at the dignity and intelligence of the (African) kids,” she said. “They are quite sophisticated. We’re in la-la land (in America) if we think we don’t have to work very hard.”

Judith Blake, a television production teacher at Norman High School, spent five weeks in South Africa this summer.

Blake also took videos about life in Oklahoma to share with the schools and a community cable television station. She’s in the process of creating a documentary about the trip, which she hopes serves as an eye-opener for her own students, she said.

American students must realize their future competition is global, Blake said. “I hope my students will see how serious other students are in less advantaged circumstances,” she said.

Seeing how teachers and students are affected by their experiences is rewarding, said Dayna Rowe, program administrator at the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. The group administers the grants alongside the Tulsa Community Foundation and the national Fund for Teachers organization.

“I meet all these teachers on the front end and they’re so excited about what they’re going to do,” Rowe said. “But it’s even better when they come back.”

Since the program began in Oklahoma, it has awarded $1.4 million, Rowe said.