Broadening Horizons: Learning Exchanges between PEPY and Irish Educators
The opportunity to be introduced to new ideas and experiences leads to the most impactful and memorable programs at PEPY. Throughout the years, staff and students have built a deep relationship with Irish education institutions and teachers, bringing about unforgettable and inspiring activities that have mutually benefitted both communities.
Through the efforts of the Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO), two scholarship students from PEPY are selected each year to journey to Ireland. Not only do these students get to see a new environment and try new foods, they are even placed with host families that allow them to have a more intimate look into Irish culture. These students are able to take these memories home and share what they have learned with the other PEPY students and their own communities.
The organizations also see this as an invaluable opportunity for Irish communities. At present, there are less than 10 Cambodians that reside in Ireland and the student exchange allows for Irish locals to learn about a very different and dynamic culture firsthand. Undoubtedly, the memories of hosting a PEPY student are as special to the family as it is for the student.
Soury, a former PEPY scholarship student who is currently our English Teacher at the Learning Center, remembers her time in Ireland fondly. She says that, “I went to Ireland last year. I loved the people and they are so friendly and hospitable. I think having an exchange experience is important because I can see the standard of living in another country firsthand and see the Irish people’s way of life. We went to see many different schools and learned so much about high standard education programs. This inspired me to apply positive changes in my classes in Cambodia.”
Education institutions like Donabate Portrane Educate Together National School (DPETNS) also have a long history of supporting PEPY’s programs and enhancing exchange experiences. As PEPY partners, they stay actively engaged in PEPY’s current activities and have even visited PEPY to share their own stories, and inspired students to continue to find opportunities for increasing international communication.
Recently, PEPY Learning Center staff and students were pleased to receive lessons and workshops from Irish teachers for 3 weeks this past August. For the last 5 years, Irish teachers have been coming to PEPY to teach a multitude of topics and partner with Learning Center teachers to collaborate and discuss teaching strategies together. In doing so, all the involved teachers, whether from Ireland or from Cambodia, were able to walk away from the partnership with new ideas on how to interact with their students, and, with activities to share in their classrooms and in their community.
The 3 Irish teachers Micheál, Aoife, & Aine all came to the Learning Center with varying levels of teaching experience. Micheál is a retired teacher who joined the exchange for his fifth time, while Aoife currently teaches in Dublin, and, Aine was studying to become a teacher. Irregardless, all of them contributed a great deal to their workshops and had so much information and lessons to offer PEPY students and staff.
All the students that have taken part in the Irish teacher exchange programs remember them well. From dancing and singing sessions, to learning about culture and geography, the Irish teachers provide students the space to imagine themselves in a different world. The workshops, activities, and sessions remain one of the most popular exchanges at the Learning Center. This was especially apparent this past August if one were to walk into one of the classrooms in the Learning Center. It would not be unusual or surprising to see PEPY alumni or PEPY staff members attending an Irish teacher led activity, enjoying their time alongside the current students.
The bonds that students are able to form with people from other countries deepens their understanding of the world and the PEPY community is thrilled that education programs and individuals in Ireland not only continue to see the merit in what we do, but, have become actively involved in uplifting our programs and our teachers.