Teacher’s travels add global perspective
Camille Dominguez, a seventh grade Earth science teacher at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, teaches her class on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. She recently returned from a trip to Finland and Sweden in October to study the school system of each country. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 29, 2012 2:56PM
WINNETKA — When Camille Dominguez was first presented with the opportunity to travel abroad and experience the education systems of European countries she wasted no time applying.
“I got the email from Phi Delta Kappa International that said they’re putting this trip together and offering scholarships to the first people who fill out the application,” Dominguez said. “I filled it out, ran downstairs, faxed it and then asked permission.”
A science teacher at North Shore Country Day School, Dominguez brought the idea to head of school Tom Doar and middle school head La Vina Lowery. Both offered their full support, calling it a great developmental opportunity.
“We live in an age of global citizenship and global education,” Dominguez said. “It seemed like this would be a good way to explore what’s happening in other countries and bring it back here and say here’s ways I think we’re excelling and ways we can have some growth.”
Near the end of October, Dominguez boarded a flight to Finland, where she was able to visit their national board of education, an upper secondary school, a private school and the University of Helsinki to learn about their teacher-training program.
“If a person wants to go into teaching they have to apply,” Dominguez said. “Fewer than 10 percent are accepted. It’s a five-year program and they graduate with a master’s.”
After a one-day trip to Estonia, Dominguez was off to Sweden where she visited another school, spoke with a current teacher and met a retired principal to gain experience on the Swedish education system.
“In Sweden a teacher works 45 hours a week,” Dominguez said. “They work 35 hours at the school and only 16-18 with the students. They’re given 10 hours a week to work from home and they can read a professional journal or go to a cultural event to enrich their training.”
Dominguez said each country engages heavily in critical thinking and gives students the opportunity to make their own choices. It’s something she hopes to instill in her own classroom.
Seeing first hand another country’s political and educational systems was an eye-opening experience and one she would gladly recommend to her peers.
“I think it’s important to get out there and stretch your legs in a new environment,” Dominguez said. “Go see what’s happening in new places, see what you have in common, where you’re exceeding and where you can grow. Lessons can be learned anywhere, not just abroad. We can learn a lot from schools here in Chicago.”
Colleagues at North Shore Country Day have been asking Dominguez about her trip and she plans to share her experience with them formally at some point, but says regardless of where the school is, one thing can be said of students.
“Kids are kids no matter where you plunk them down on the planet,” she said.