At a time when violent international conflict is spawning humanitarian crises around the world, four high school teachers in Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma and Florida have been selected to take part in a U.S. Institute of Peace program to help their students gain the knowledge, skills and perspectives they need to work toward a more peaceful world.

teacher and students

USIP selected Amy Cameron of Grandview High School in Grandview, Missouri; Vince Facione of Will Rogers College High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Ezra Shearer of Sentinel High School in Missoula, Montana; and María Eugenia Zelaya of Eastside High School in Gainesville, Florida, to participate in the highly selective 2017 Peace Teachers Program. Over the course of the next school year, they will receive training, resources, and support to strengthen their teaching of peace and conflict.

“We are thrilled to work with these four outstanding educators this coming year. They have each excelled at bringing a global perspective to their teaching, and they have exciting ideas for integrating issues of conflict and peace into their students’ work,” said Megan Chabalowski, who manages the program for USIP’s Public Education department. “We know from working with previous groups of Peace Teachers that they are going to have a great impact on their students’ growth as peacebuilders.”

The Peace Teachers Program is rooted in the conviction that educators can be pivotal in bringing peace themes into their classrooms, schools, and communities. Past participants have reported that this program changed their own perspectives and those of their students.

“Since becoming a Peace Teacher, my view of teaching conflicts has shifted,” said 2016 Peace Teacher Latricia Davis. “Now, instead of focusing solely on what caused wars, I ask my students to reflect on what conflict resolution methods could have potentially changed the outcomes.”

Laura Keldorf, a 2015 Peace Teacher, said the classroom resources she received from USIP had an immediate impact on her students. “They are not only necessary and tangible, but students are hungry for them,” she said.

As English Literature, Spanish, and social studies teachers, the 2017 cohort will discover ways to advance their students’ understanding of conflict and the possibilities of peace in ways that align with their own content. Over the course of a school year, they will take part in online coursework, develop and implement individualized action plans, and share their strategies and experiences through video postings and conference presentations, serving as models and ambassadors for global peacebuilding education.

“In Montana, we have little diversity, and students have limited exposure to the world beyond our borders,” said new 2017 Peace Teacher Ezra Shearer. “Through the Peace Teachers Program, I hope to be better equipped to help my students develop the skills to overcome the challenges of an increasingly interconnected world.”

He will get his first opportunity to connect his students with other young peacebuilders from around the world on September 21, when the 2017 Peace Teachers will lead their classes in taking up USIP’s Peace Day Challenge, in honor of the International Day of Peace.

For more information on the Peace Teachers Program or its 2017 cohort, email Megan Chabalowski at mchabalowski@usip.org.

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