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K-5 Spanish Teacher Cecilia Lobato Eppler Shares her Experience with 7 iEARN Projects

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For Cecilia Lobato Eppler, a K-5 Spanish Teacher at Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland, participating in iEARN projects has provided opportunities to foster her students’ development as global citizens. Cecilia first joined iEARN in 2011, after learning about it from a college professor who was a strong advocate of Global Education. Since then, she has partnered with iEARN classrooms in Argentina, India, China, England, Slovenia, Russia, Pakistan, and Taiwan. Cecilia and her students have participated in the Teddy Bear Project, the Daffodils & Tulips project, the Holiday Card Exchange project, the Ositos de Peluche project, the Global Art: A Sense of Caring project, the Side by Side project, and the My Hero project

Nicole Weitzner, Manager of Membership Services at iEARN-USA, recently interviewed Cecilia about her experiences with iEARN. Read on to learn how Cecilia has successfully implemented 7 iEARN projects in her classroom and her tips for teachers new to iEARN project work.

Connecting with Classrooms around the World

"I have established, through the Teddy Bear Project, a nice relationship with Mrs. Cindy Li, from Shihyung Elementary School in Taiwan. We have been corresponding for close to five years now. I have also participated several years with Mrs. Ruty Hotzen from Israel on her Daffodils & Tulips project, and in the Holiday Card Exchange project, and the Teddy Bear project, including the Intercambio de Ositos project in Spanish. Other projects like Global Art: A Sense of Caring, Side by Side, and My Hero, have been great tools to initiate classroom discussions about peace, and issues that humans care about around the world. I established these connections via the iEARN Collaboration Centre, emailed the facilitators of the projects, and they connected me with other teachers or they themselves connected with me."

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I Earn Usa Educator Spotlight  Cecilia Lobato Eppler
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Overcoming Obstacles

"Frequent communication between partners is important so the students do not lose interest. It can be challenging to deal with late responses to emails, or when you do not receive responses from partners. Another challenge is to deal with regular mail; we have had some packages never arrive to their destination, whether we are waiting to receive the package or our partners are waiting to receive theirs. As a teacher, one needs to be creative and try to problem solve these issues, either by re-sending the packages or simply explaining to students that at times, we cannot control what happens with the mail. I suggest to send follow up emails and be patient. Teachers are busy, and they need to find time to respond; or at times, regular mail, or internet connections are not easily available, so do not lose interest!

Another challenge is getting colleagues to find time to participate or support these projects. I advise teachers who want to participate in global education to share with colleagues as much as you can about these projects and engage them by encouraging them to participate even if it is just in a limited way so that they can get excited and want to learn more about global education."

Highlights of iEARN Project Work

"A highlight of participating in iEARN projects has been establishing close friendships in different parts of the world. Teaching my students that people all over the world share many similarities with them, but also have many differences, and learning about them, is very enriching. These learning opportunities foster their development as tolerant and accepting global citizens. Global education projects are very important in creating a multicultural environment in the classroom and contribute to teaching young minds that people around the world care about similar issues, such as peace, poverty, disease, shelter, the environment, nutrition, and happiness.

Receiving packages or letters is always very exciting and is a huge highlight for all students. They love opening packages full of surprises, information, pictures, and many times even treats! Getting my students to create a package to mail to our international friends is another highlight. Thinking about how to showcase their own cultures is very exciting too.

Teaching my students that people all over the world share many similarities with them, but also have many differences, and learning about them, is very enriching. These learning opportunities foster their development as tolerant and accepting global citizens.

A few anecdotes: during our collaboration with Shihyung School in Taiwan, while having a Skype session, two of our students who spoke Chinese fluently had a chance to showcase their Chinese skills with their own classmates, as well as with the students and teachers in Taiwan!  One day we also received from Taiwan an unexpected package that included a published book, illustrated by Shihyung School´s students, which narrated our Teddy Bear Exchange project. The drawings were amazing, and the Teddy in the illustrations looked exactly as ¨Baloo,” our traveling teddy bear from the U.S. This book is very special, and our students were so excited to think that they were part of a published story. Furthermore, the book also narrates Baloo´s visit to a Buddhist temple. The students loved everything about this book. Just this year we received a message from Mrs. Cindy Li, with pictures of a paper lantern festival. Her school created a life size paper lantern that looked just like Baloo!

When we worked with teacher Laura Gutierrez from the Colegio Upsala, in the region of El Calafate, in Argentina, we received letters from her students asking us how close was the nearest glacier to Gilman School. Our students had great fun finding out which glacier in North America was closer to the state of Maryland! The Colegio Upsala is located right next to the Glacier Park in the South of Argentina."

Benefits to Engaging Students in iEARN Projects

"I believe that it is important for young students to learn that there are many people who live on our planet; that we all belong to the same species regardless of our skin color or our cultural background; and that learning from each other will allow us to be understanding of our similarities and accepting of our differences. These projects are of great importance for our students to become aware of the responsibility that they have to become good citizens of the world. They also provide an opportunity for students of different backgrounds and nationalities to share their cultures with their own classmates."

Impact on Educators and Students 

"As an educator, I have learned many new things about other people and other cultures, including different teaching ideas and styles, different ways to present projects, how different languages are taught, etc. I have also made personal friendships in many parts of the world. I have improved my technology skills, and I have also learned to adapt to a variety of communication settings. Teaching can be a pretty isolating profession at times, and global projects provide teachers with an opportunity to meet new people and to participate in exciting new projects without having to leave the classroom.

When my students prepare videos, letters, etc, to be shared with international partners they take great pride in showcasing their skills, as well as their cultures. They also take very seriously the idea of being a good citizen of the world and of taking action to make our world a better place.

My students really enjoy participating in global projects. They are very enthusiastic and eager to learn about other peoples and cultures. They like to learn how other students go about their daily life at school and at home in other countries. When my students prepare videos, letters, etc, to be shared with international partners they take great pride in showcasing their skills, as well as their cultures. They also take very seriously the idea of being a good citizen of the world and of taking action to make our world a better place."

Last Words of Advice for New iEARN Teachers

"JUST DO IT!!! If you’re not sure how to start, my recommendation would be to just select a project, write an email to the leader of the project, and do it. These projects are always a learning process, and there is no right or wrong. With time, one learns which process works better for a particular school setting, and the idea is to connect and learn from each other!

I think that important advice would be that when dealing with other cultures and topics of global concern, the teacher should remain open minded and neutral in class discussions. Teachers should not be judgmental or pass on their own personal opinion to the students. The students should be able to, and be encouraged to express their ideas in a safe and open-minded environment. 

So sign up, take some time to look at the available projects, choose the project and get involved!  IEARN is a wonderful platform to connect with teachers and students all around the world."


If you are an iEARN Educator who has been a member for more than a year, we would love to feature you and share your experiences/stories in a story for our website! Please reach out to us at: [email protected]