Teacher of the Month – December 2013
Congratulations to Kavan Yee, our Teacher of the Month of December!! Kavan teaches science and is the Director of Student Life and Science Curriculum at Lowell School in Washington, D.C. Kavan was selected for his dedication to making the most out of the student travel experience both in-country and when at home with the group. Kavan has rounded up multiple departments (math, science and language) within the school to collaborate on classroom activities that prepare the students for their adventure building BioChar stoves in Costa Rica!
How long have you been at this school?
Is your school a high school or middle school? Day or boarding?
Middle School and Day School
Have you traveled abroad before you participated/lead the Sustainable Horizon programs at your school? If so, when and where?
What are your favorite things about traveling abroad?
Cultural Experience , Immersion, and building lasting relationships
Why do you feel your school was interested in Sustainable Horizon Programs?
We believe that service projects should have a lasting impact on the communities you help.
Were international programs a part of the school culture before your trips with Sustainable Horizon?
No, travel remained in the continental US.
How did you get involved with these programs?
We learned about Sustainable Horizons through “word of mouth.” We actually learned about the organization during an interview with a job candidate.
What is the value of taking students on an international program?
Wow, immersing yourself in a culture that is out of your “comfort level.” You not only learn about another human being or group of people, but you learn a lot about who you are as a person and who you would like to be. Becoming more globally aware of the issues that affect everyone. Being forced to apply/learn new ways of communication.
How many years have you taken students on an international program with Sustainable Horizon?
This year will be my second.
The relationships they build with communities they learn to love will last a lifetime. All of my students that have been on this trip continue to talk about their experience in Costa Rica.
Where did you go?
Why did you choose these program countries?
We wanted a country that invested in sustainable development.
What have been some highlights on your Sustainable Horizon trips?
Building BioChar stoves, meeting the project coordinators, living with the families, working with the SH staff (Julio and Jessica)
Do you find that incorporating service learning into your program brings added value? If so, why?
Service learning that has lasting impact on those you help is THE only way that can be beneficial to those who serve and to those who receive the service. As a school, we did not want to instill in our students the “spend one day in another person shoes” activity or “where do I sign a check?” mentality or “collect for the faceless” project. We wanted our students to serve by applying all of the skills and knowledge gained in their inter-disciplined studies: designing the stoves in math, understanding the physical science and construction process, and learning about the culture and language in their Spanish classes.
What service projects have you worked on?
Building BioChar Stoves
If you stayed with host families, tell us about your experiences.
My students truly loved their host families. This was proven to me by the way they truly wanted to be with them. “Can we get home soon? It’s my turn to walk the dog.” “My family and I made the most amazing meal last night.” “We laughed all night and we did was the dishes.” “I don’t want to leave.” “I plan to return.” On the night of our departure, the children of the host families shared emotional testimonies of how they’ve gained a “brother or sister.” Our students spoke to how much they’ve grown as individuals based on their experience with the host families.
In the past, I’ve read my fair share of advisory blogs and advice columns as we prepared for traveling experiences. I’ve always been skeptical on some of the stories or testimonials. But our SH experience has been truly amazing. Heck, I can’t believe I’m the ONE stating these words now. My only advice would be to experience it yourself. From the beginning, I always joked with Jessica about being the most “high-maintenance” group she’d ever had. Jessica was so attentive to all our needs (community service, dietary, registration/documentation, etc), she made the coordination of the extremely smooth. The communication with the SH staff was outstanding and the follow through was beyond any group I’ve ever worked with. Our Costa Rican program leader and driver were great with students and made safety their priority. SH helped to make our families comfortable with international travel.
How do these programs compare to your previous travel experiences?
There are no comparisons. In the 15 years I’ve been in education, I have never been a part of a program that has ever shown greater impact than the experience my students shared with SH