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A year’s worth of smiles

Cover photo of students from WSU College of Education 2010-11 photo album

Those who missed the slide show at the May all-college meeting — or just want to linger over the smiles again — can check out the 2010-2011 memories album now posted  on our WSU College of Education Shutterfly page.

There are photos from all four campuses, Olympia, and even from Germany and Afghanistan. Thanks to everyone who contributed pictures. Be sure to keep those cameras handy to capture the education action during the coming year.


An educator’s view of Kabul, via Seoul

Levi McNeil in Afghanistan
Levi McNeil in Afghanistan

Red neon crosses. Blue-domed mosques.

For Levi McNeil, those skyline images illustrate the contrast between Korea, where the WSU alumnus has lived for three years, and Afghanistan, which he visited for the first time this spring. The difference was not just between Christianity and Islam, but the influence of religion on daily life.

“Religion seems to play a much more significant role in Afghan culture than in Korean culture,” he said. “In Afghanistan, beliefs play out in everyday activities. The days of the week that you go out, the types of food you prepare, the roles of men and women, the age you get married.”

Levi, a native of Rogers, Arkansas, earned his Ph.D. from WSU in 2009. He is an assistant professor at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. He went to Kabul in April at the invitation of his former professor, Joy Egbert, who asked him to assist her in teaching workshops for the Afghan eLearning English Support Project. The College of Education coordinates the U.S.-funded effort to build the capacity of Afghan universities in information technology, English language, and e-learning.


Besides religion, another major difference that Levi noted was classroom behavior. While he encourages his Korean students to share their viewpoints, they often hesitate to explain or defend their positions. Although attitudes seem to be changing, the student’s role in Korea has traditionally been to listen quietly as the teacher imparted knowledge.

“The Afghan students I worked with were not at all shy about giving their opinions,” Levi said.

Most of those students are themselves teachers. They were at the workshops to learn how to share language and technology skills with their own students.

“The Afghan project is about empowering these people so they can do it their own way,” he said. “The workshops were a negotiation between what we were saying and what they practiced on a cultural level, so they could meet their goals.”

Their ambitious goals include teaching all Afghan university courses in English within five years.

Impressive people

Levi expects to return to Afghanistan, probably in September. He’ll hold workshops to familiarize the Afghan teachers with course materials and content developed at WSU. He’ll introduce new classroom technology. And he’ll visit some of the nine English-language learning centers to evaluate their offerings and offer support to faculty.

In April, Joy and Levi used a party game to break the ice with workshop participants. There was much laughter, and the American visitors emerged with the nicknames “Lucky Levi” and “Jolly Joy.”

What impressed Levi most during his visit to Afghanistan?  The people.

“In a country that’s been at war forever, it would be easy for them to be very pessimistic and to lose hope,” he said. “But they were positive, they were happy. They were always courteous to me as a foreigner. Also, they took initiative. They knew there was a possibility for change and they were not afraid to work hard.”



Helping tribal teens find a sense of self

This week, for the seventh summer in a row, a lively group of teens from the Coeur d’Alene reservation came to WSU Pullman to learn about themselves and think about their futures.  The following article, “Young tribal members find a sense of self at weeklong workshop,” is reprinted with permission from the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

By Christina Lords, staff writer
June 10, 2011

Joy. Laughter. Happiness.

Leadership campers Kianna Peone and Tillie Torpey
Campers Kianna Peone, left, and Tillie Torpey. Photo by Geoff Crimmins

These are Kaila Wakan’s self described gifts – gifts she’s learned she can share with family members, classmates, her community and beyond.

Wakan is one of about 50 participants in the seventh annual Coeur d’Alene Tribe Leadership Development Camp, taking place this week at the Washington State University Pullman campus.

This is her fifth year at the workshop.

“This helps me be a better role model for my younger brothers and sisters,” she said. “Some of the kids at my school do drugs and things like that … some of them are my friends. I care for them. I want to help them. This helps me do that.”

The workshop has a different theme each year to build upon the last, said camp organizer Paula Groves Price, an associate professor in the College of Education. Any students ages 13-17 who live on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation can participate.

About 50 students take part each year.

The workshops employ a more holistic approach to educating children patterned in part after elements in the Native American medicine wheel, focusing on physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health, Price said.

“Our aim is to really help students think about who they are, to think about their identities on multiple levels,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand a positive sense of self.”

Students sometimes feel an internal conflict about identifying who they are because of cultures past and present, Price said. Some identify themselves by their traditional, historical culture and some identify more generationally in a modern sense, Price said.

“They’re developing mentally, trying to figure who they are now and who they are going to become,” Price said. “We’re just trying to help them through that process.”

The workshops aim to help the students find a balance between the two, she said.

The camp utilizes different learning methods or abstract activities to get the students to start to analyze issues on a broader scale, such as their age, gender and identity. Those activities also lead students to start thinking about their purpose or future, and those strengths can then be applied to a specific field of study, going to college and eventually earning a degree, Price said.

Place-based education gets the students to think about they spaces they occupy and how they interact with others and their surrounding environment, she said.

This year’s theater workshops encourage students to physically act out ideas and themes while using the entire body because that kind of learning typically helps the students remember more from the lessons, Price said.

Developing all senses – not just those usually related to academics – helps students make a more meaningful connection with the material, she said.

Sports and other games are used as team building exercises throughout the week, and students are encouraged to write, draw or create other art to detail what they’ve learned at the workshops in a personalized journal.