U.S. Teacher of the Year Builds Strong Bonds with Palestinian Teachers and Students

Ms. Shanna Peeples, the 2015 USA National Teacher of the Year, traveled to the region under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State to engage with students and teachers, and to strengthen dialogue through common issues in teaching and learning. As part of her travel throughout the Middle East, the U.S Consulate General brought Ms. Peeples to schools in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as via video conference to teachers in Gaza to engage with Palestinians on topics ranging from creative teaching pedagogies to the function of standardized testing. From September 1-3, Ms. Peeples brought American-style teaching to Palestinian classrooms and learned how Palestinians value education as key to the viability of a future Palestinian state. She motivated her audiences with her inspiring words on the importance of teaching and by highlighting the commonalities between American and Palestinian teachers.

Shanna Peeples is an English teacher at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas. Many of her American students, like many Palestinians, face demographic and socio-economic hurdles that challenge learning and teaching. About 85 percent of her students in Texas are considered economically disadvantaged. Many are refugees from places like Iraq and Somalia. Many of them have experienced trauma and violence in their lives. Ms. Peeples’ classroom provides a safe haven where she tells them that “Everyone has a voice, everyone has a story worth sharing.”

Over a period of three days, she sat with students at UNRWA schools and Palestinian public schools. She talked with young Palestinians who are learning English through the U.S. Consulate General-sponsored English Access Microscholarship program – the largest program of its kind in the world. Her meeting with the Palestinian Authority Minister of Education Sabri Saidam allowed her and the Minister to exchange views on how the United States can play a meaningful role to help strengthen and innovate the Palestinian education system.

U.S. President Barack Obama recognized Ms. Peeples’ and her fellow teachers’ accomplishments in April of this year, stating, “They are not just teaching formulas or phonetics – they’re selling hope, sparking imagination, opening up minds, giving people – young people – a sense of their own power. They teach students to challenge themselves and dream beyond their circumstances, and imagine different futures. And then they work as hard as they can to help those young people make their dreams real.”

You can find photos of Ms. Shanna Peeples’ visit here and on the Consulate General Facebook page.

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For more information please contact the U.S. Consulate General’s Press Office at 02-622-6908