Meet Yolanda, a U.S. veteran turned English Language Arts teacher. Yolanda Castillo won this year’s Global Professional Learning Giveaway and attended EF’s Global Student Leadership Summit in Milan, Italy.
Over the years these summits have tackled a variety of issues such as environmental sustainability, creativity and education, and the future of food. Notable names like Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Sir Ken Robinson, Raj Patel, and Anthony Bourdain have all crossed our stage. While students are tackling global issues during their leg of the conference, educators attend innovative workshops and learn from leading experts. This year’s attendees explored Project Based Learning, Design Thinking, and comparative global educational models. Unique to this PL experience are the ample opportunities to attend workshops with students and watch them grapple with their design challenge. Educators have the chance to innovate the future of learning in their institutions, working shoulder to shoulder with their user group—15 to 18-year-old high school students!
I had a chance to catch up with Yolanda after she returned home.
George: Why do you want to travel and what inspired you to apply for this giveaway?
Yolanda: I teach in a small town and our students don’t think on a global level, they don’t think there’s a world out there. I thought traveling to a country like Italy or Greece might expand their thinking. Going back to the cradle of civilization exposes you to who these people were. Traveling could help my students start to realize that instead of living in a microcosm, they are living in a world.
George: That’s great! Turning towards the Summit, if you had to define the value proposition of this PL experience, what would it be?
Yolanda: I thought the theme was excellent. The fact that there’s so much food in the world, yet we have poverty. The project-based learning (PBL) aspect was really valuable. All these kids had to come up with a solution and they could approach it from any angle. I loved getting to be one of the judges for the student work. I loved hearing their arguments and seeing the models they built representing their solutions. I also loved the PBL workshops as this is something I want to use in my classroom.
George: What student projects do you remember or did you appreciate best?
Yolanda: We had a group that pitched a restaurant where they grew herbs and vegetables on the roof, and later composted up there. It demonstrated a way to provide self-sustaining fresh food for a school. There were so many others! One group of students created a children’s playground with a garden, where young children could see the full life cycle of a plant. There were slides and swings inviting children into that garden. I thought it was really innovative.
George: There were about 1500 kids and 80 different groups, and it was just amazing the endless stream of ideas these students produced. Summits always leave me optimistic about the future.
What would you say to other people who might like to apply to this opportunity?
Yolanda: The Summit is going to give you an opportunity to get out of your routine. It’s going to give you an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. It is going to change your thinking and give you an opportunity to work with people from all walks of life and there is no better learning platform than that.
Yolanda returned to her classroom armed with new skills and resources. She is now using Design Thinking in her own lessons.
You can learn about other Professional Learning opportunities with EF here.