This fall, when Laurel High School teacher Kathleen Murphy tells her students the story of the Trojan Horse, it will be from a different perspective thanks to her upcoming summer vacation.
Murphy, of Baltimore, and English teacher Bridget Asana of Laurel received a scholarship to spend two weeks in Turkey this July, where she will learn about the Turkish experience of the Trojan War.
Murphy and Asana are two of three Laurel High School faculty members traveling abroad this summer to enhance their teaching styles and content with international experiences and cultural comparisons.
“Troy is in Turkey and when I did some research, I found they think Homer was probably from Turkey, not from Greece,” she said. “We always here about the Greek side [of the Trojan War] and not the Turkish side. There is always another side to a story, whether or not it is evident.”
Murphy and Asana received scholarships from the World Affairs Council and Turkish Cultural Foundation in Washington, D.C., to travel Turkey, and both said it would be their first time in that country. As part of the scholarship application, the teachers had to submit a project proposal, outlining what they hoped to learn in Turkey and what they hoped to bring back to their classrooms.
Asana, who teaches ninth and 12th grade reading and English at Laurel, said she plans to study the Turkish culture to add context to a comparative study of Turkish and American literature.
“Music, dance and other cultural aspects are things that are very important in literature and I intend to look at those cultural artifacts that can be used in teaching other people and bringing diversity into my classroom,” she said.
Asana, who said she emigrated to the U.S. from Cameroon 13 years ago, said her background prompts her to bring more of a global emphasis to her classroom, which she said includes students from India, the Philippines and African countries.
“Cultural diversity is a global asset that needs tapping,” she said. “My students come from different areas of the world. They would love to see another culture that they can compare.”
Kari Rea, an English teacher who teaches grades 9, 10 and 12 at Laurel, will be traveling to Germany this summer on a Fulbright Commission fellowship. Rea will be studying the German education system and sitting in on German high school classes, she said.
“I’m hoping I will come back with some ideas about how to open up the world for my students a little bit more,” she said. “And maybe some new ideas of how to engage students.”
Laurel High School principal Dwayne Jones said one Laurel teacher received a scholarship to study abroad last year, and that he hopes more faculty and staff will have the chance to do so in coming years.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for [the teachers] and I think it’s also a wonderful opportunity for [the students] because of the instructional tools they can bring back,” he said. “We look forward to getting more staff involved next year and even possibly the principal.”