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Hometown: Fulton, Mo.
Major: Exceptional Child Education
Graduated: Spring 2003
Few people have had a student teaching experience like the one that Nicole Tilton, a recent graduate of the College of Education, had last year.
Nicole was able to complete her student teaching experience in Melbourne, Australia and was able to immerse herself in the culture and traditions of Australia. Her experience has enriched her life in many ways and has changed her entire outlook on the teaching vocation.
Monash Primary School, located in the metropolitan area of Melbourne, is a small school whose student population of just 100 is representative of an amazing 15 different nationalities. Nicole thrived in this atmosphere of diversity and recalls that it was interesting to walk around the tables at lunchtime and see the many ethnic foods the children brought in their lunches.
Since the schools in the area are so ethnically diverse, it was important for students to begin learning a foreign language beginning in kindergarten. Nicole recalls feeling self-conscious about the fact that she was the only person in the school, students and faculty included, who knew only one language. She admired the emphasis that the school placed on learning a foreign language and was especially intrigued by the fact that every school in that area of Australia was able to select the foreign language it would teach based on the ethnic demography of the student population. In Nicole’s case, her students were taught to speak Mandarin Chinese.
For Nicole, the experience of teaching in a country and culture vastly removed from the one with which she was familiar was a priceless experience. Before she embarked for Australia, Nicole was not sure that a career in teaching was something she should continue to pursue. However, in Australia, she was allowed to immerse herself in what she called “an atmosphere in which she could thrive” and was able to truly find out what a good teacher she could be.
Nicole says her international teaching experience offered her the opportunity “to take off blinders and pre-conceived notions” about other cultures. “It takes stepping away from everything you are comfortable with,” Nicole says, “to find what you are truly capable of.”
Nicole offered a quote from Mark Twain in describing the impact of her international teaching experience: “Travel is fatal to all prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
Anyone who participates in the wonderfully valuable experience of international student teaching will likely agree.