International connections flourish at Corbett Prep, as Tampa students enjoy opportunities to learn alongside peers from both Spain and China.
Classes as young as PreK3 welcomed international guests throughout the school year, providing students of all ages and backgrounds with a better understanding of and appreciation for other cultures.
A global perspective is vital for students as the world becomes more and more interconnected. As an International Baccalaureate school, Corbett Prep seeks to encourage a sense of international mindedness. IB's mission statement says developing inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people can help create a better and more peaceful world through understanding and respect.
Understanding the importance of thinking globally, Corbett Prep has built many relationships with schools in Spain. Groups of Spanish teachers have visited Corbett Prep, and Headmaster Dr. Joyce Burick Swarzman has trained faculty and staff at more than 20 schools in Spain. An international study program has allowed students from Corbett Prep and Colegios Ramón y Cajal in Madrid to visit each other's schools annually for years.
Early Primary students experienced two months with Julia Olleros Martos, a visiting teacher from Madrid. She teamed with PreK and kindergarten classes to share experiences and culture, participate in professional development and see how education is approached in the United States. Her uncle, Luis Pérez, has worked with Dr. Swarzman on developing connections with schools in Spain interested in adopting the school's M.O.R.E. (Multiple Options for Results in Education) Model.
Martos said the Early Primary team's professionalism and ability to cultivate joy in the classroom impressed her: "They teach with passion and treat people with love, thinking about kids first and taking a lot of care to create a powerful environment for meaningful learning."
Reaching Out to China
In another international connection, Corbett Prep students benefited from time with about a dozen Chinese students, some of whom stayed for most of the spring. The students ranged in age from PreK3 to seventh grade. and they enjoyed sharing similarities and differences in their interests, schools and home lives as they developed their friendships.
Dong Xiao Xiao, a second grader known to her Corbett Prep friends as "Betty," came to Tampa to work on her English and broaden her horizons. Her mother said she was happy to see her make friends so quickly and develop more independence during her stay. In addition to learning to speak English more fluently, Betty also became interested in Spanish, thanks to the Spanish classes she attended with the first and second grade "Cool Cats." Her mother also appreciated how drama classes encouraged her to express herself creatively.
Betty also had a chance to share snapshots of her own culture, teaching students some Chinese words and talking about customs and her daily life in China.
These types of experiences are what lead to personal growth, said Martos, of Spain. Children and adults can learn about specific aspects of a culture from friends they make, helping them to understand why some traditions, habits, ideals and priorities are so different around the world.
"When children understand that, they become more open-minded and respectful of others," Martos said, "which will be something positive for their whole lives as cultures get closer and closer due to globalization."