Panamanian Teachers Hone English, Teaching Skills at U of A's Spring International

Participants in the Panamanian teacher training program visit the Arkansas State Capitol Building.
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Participants in the Panamanian teacher training program visit the Arkansas State Capitol Building.

Spring International Language Center is currently hosting 45 Panamanian teachers of English as a foreign language as part of two eight-week teacher training programs.

The program's goals are to improve the teachers' English language proficiency, enhance their teaching skills, expand their teaching methods and strategies, and strengthen their leadership skills. Each of the teachers who complete the program will receive a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate.

Rochelle Keogh, Spring International teacher training coordinator, said she hopes the teachers will share the knowledge they are gaining with their colleagues in Panama as a form of training the trainer and being teacher leaders.

"We are really trying to give them the tools and materials they need to train other teachers in their home country," Keogh said.

This is the second year Spring International has hosted a group of Panamanian teachers for a teacher training program. The program is part of a Panamanian initiative, Panamá Bilingüe, designed to strengthen the study and teaching of English in the country's education system. 

The Panamá Bilingüe program, was launched by the country's President, Juan Carlos Varela, via a directive to Ministry of Education officials in 2014. The program aims to send a minimum of 2,000 teachers per year to English-speaking countries to hone their English language skills. The program is set to run through 2019.

"The vision is to completely change the way English is taught in their country," said Leyah Bergman-Lanier, director of Spring International. "It's great to be a part of that."

The University of Arkansas has strong ties to Panama and is currently home to more Panamanian students than any other college or university in the country, with 155 Panamanians enrolled.

The university's relationship with the Central American country was formalized by the late Paul Noland, former department head and professor of animal science in the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences.

In 1951 the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with Panama, placed 12 Panamanian agriculture students at the University of Arkansas. Noland was an advisor to most of those students. He also spent two years living in Panama in the 1950's to establish a research station in the country's capital and to help develop an agricultural high school. 

The sixty-five year partnership between Panama and the University of Arkansas is a testament to the power and impact of international education.


Amanda Cantu, director of communications
Graduate School and International Education

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