Dispatch from Cape Town: Exceptional teachers step on the global stage

Greetings from South Africa!

This week I have the privilege of being in Cape Town, South Africa among more than 500 educators, school leaders and government officials who have gathered from around the world to attend the Sixth Annual Partners in Learning (PIL) Worldwide Innovative Education Forum (IEF).

South Africa, with its vibrant economy and diverse culture, is a fitting destination for this year’s PIL Worldwide Innovative Education Forum, the “World Cup” for Innovative Teachers and School Leaders, uniting to celebrate innovation and share best practices to meet the needs of today’s generation of learners.

This week we are celebrating the worldwide finale of a year’s worth of country and regional events, during which 125 finalists were selected to present their innovative teaching from 200,000 participating teachers around the world. They are vying for 12 Worldwide Innovative Teacher Awards that will announced at the end of the event on Friday, October 29th in the following four categories:

  • Innovation in Community
  • Innovation in Collaboration
  • Innovation in Content
  • Educator’s Choice

Education is critical to the social and economic development of every nation, and to the ability of individuals everywhere to reach their full potential. An engaging teacher is one of the top predictors of student success and this year’s IEF will showcase some of the best:

· Cheryl Arnett, a teacher at Sunset Elementary School, Craig Colorado, used technology to connect her first grade students to a classroom on the opposite side of the globe in Beirut, Lebanon. The classes share ideas, experiences, and learning through the use of digital stories and Web 2.0 tools on the internet. Check out Cheryl’s post about her trip to South Africa here.

· Linda Bradfield, a teacher from South Africa received the “Innovation in Collaboration” Award at the 2010 Pan-African Innovative Education Forum for her “Trash to Treasure” project which facilitated easy collaboration among specific groups beyond the classroom. Linda’s project demonstrated how 6 and 7 year olds can collaborate with their community of parents and trash collectors to collect and process waste, using technology to document their story and what they’ve learned.

· Jonathan Serunkuma of Uganda helped his students rid the environment of waste while generating money for themselves and their communities. The project is coordinated by the Fine Art Teachers, who work hand in hand with the Entrepreneurship and Biology teachers. During this process, the community is also educated about the dangers of poor waste management, and the importance of sorting waste.

· Florence Aulanier, teacher at Lycee Cassini in France, used technology to break down generational barriers and address discrimination. The project introduced students and the elderly to operatic artists and composers. Together, these groups wrote a libretto against discrimination. Participants communicated by Internet to improve the libretto together and ultimately the opera will be performed at a theatre. In addition, students made short movies against discrimination which are made available for viewing on the internet.

Providing quality education to the 1.4 billion students around the world is essential to the future of our society. Technology is one tool can help them achieve their greatest potential. Through the Microsoft Partners in Learning program, these teachers are not only driving transformational change in their classroom, they are sharing their practices and experiences with other educators around the world.

I am excited to see how the educators attending this year’s WWIEF use what they learn to reach, motivate and ensure the success of every student.

To learn more about everything happening in Cape Town this week go here.

Also check out videos of the three U.S. teachers competing in Cape Town this week below.

Lauren Woodman, General Manager Government and Education Engagement Programs

Cheryl Arnett, Sunset Elementary School, Craig Colorado


Thomas Gaffey – School of the Future, Philadelphia, PA

Pat Yongpradit – Springbrook High School, Silver Springs, MD


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