Scholarship Sends Wheelock Student to Teach in Ghana

February 21, 2013

Katelyn Coty Awarded with the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship

Wheelock student Katelyn Coty with students in GhanaWheelock College student Katelyn Coty of Belchertown, MA, was awarded the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship for educational and career development for American students studying oversees. The scholarship funded Coty for a seven-week immersion experience working as a junior high school teaching intern in Kpongunor, Ghana.

(Coty is pictured at left with her students in Ghana.)

The scholarship allowed Coty, a Special Education and Human Growth and Development/Psychology major at Wheelock, to apply her classroom knowledge and fieldwork experience. Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the scholarship encourages students to choose non-traditional study abroad destinations. Coty became aware of the scholarship opportunity from Wheelock's Center for International Partnerships and Programs and the Student Success Department.

"Katelyn's passion to serve in this fashion is exemplary and consistent with the core values embedded in the Wheelock mission: to improve the lives of children and families globally," said Dr. Linda A. Davis, Dean of International Programs and Partnerships. Coty said she chose to apply for the scholarship to teach in Ghana because it was her desire "to experience a different culture and understand the world outside the bubble I live in."

Ghana, presented some challenges including, different language and limited resources yet Coty resourcefully overcame while teaching mathematics, science, information and communication technology, and physical education. She learned quickly to adapt her teaching style to best fit the needs of her students, making use of a variety of simple aids and illustrating concepts. Additionally, she used natural resources around her including aspects of Ghanaian culture, such as the Ampe (jumping game) to help her students understand probability.

On weekends, Coty had the opportunity to travel. Touring the Slave Dungeons on the Cape Coast was a life changing experience, giving her the opportunity to learn about the history of the Triangular Slave Trade where it happened. Coty shares, that at that moment, standing in the dungeons, she was hit with the harsh reality of the past, hearing stories of slavery-an experience that had more power than a photo or book could ever convey.

Overcoming obstacles helped Coty gain confidence in herself as a person and as a teacher: "Learning about this culture through experience is much different than learning it in a book. I was able to experience the customs, the food, my struggles, my strengths, and that there is hope in the world." In the near future, Coty hopes to be able to return to Ghana to see how her students are progressing and to be able tell them how proud she is of their dedication and hard work. "[In the US], we are lucky to have a form of education and people in our lives to support us," said Coty. "I want to take that support and share it with my students in Ghana. In the future, I want these students to be recognized for their hard work towards school and to improving their future."

Coty's experience in Ghana has helped shape her future; she now knows that she can push herself out of her comfort zone. With a career goal of teaching within special education focusing on students with social/emotional disabilities she plans to continue her education at graduate school in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). In her future classrooms, Coty plans to incorporate her experience in Ghana as a lesson, a unit, or a theme.

In addition to aiding students in obtaining scholarships oversees, Wheelock's Center for International Partnerships and Programs develops and delivers globally a range of academic degree programs, innovative seminars, and professional development programs. The Center coordinates Wheelock College's global endeavors including: degree programs offered; service learning trips; academic internships, student and faculty exchanges, and an international Visiting Scholars program which enriches on campus experiences.

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