Subreenduth Serves Teachers Of The World

sharon-subreenduth
Dr. Sharon Subreenduth

Dr. Sharon Subreenduth could be called an “educational citizen of the world” in light of her wide-ranging efforts to improve teaching and learning across the globe and at Bowling Green State University. Her work builds ever-widening circles of shared expertise and community whose impact endures in promoting social justice and equity.

In recognition and support of her efforts, Subreenduth was granted a Professorship of Service Excellence at the annual Faculty Excellence Awards April 9. The title is conferred upon members of the faculty who have established national and international recognition through professional service, public service and/or external engagement through their work at the University. The title is awarded for three years and includes an annual stipend of $5,000, $2,000 of which will go toward professional development.

Since joining BGSU’s School of Teaching and Learning in 2002, Subreenduth has worked with more than 200 educators from around the world and remains engaged with about 100 of them, noted nominator Dr. Mark Seals, director of the School of Teaching and Learning. She is the principal investigator of the grant-funded IREX Teaching for Excellence and Achievement program, which brings outstanding secondary science and English as a foreign language teachers from abroad to the United States to further develop expertise in their subject areas, enhance their teaching skills, and increase their knowledge about the U.S. in a cultural exchange.

The teachers come to campus for six weeks and are immersed in a holistic experience in which they observe and practice teaching techniques at BGSU, engage with education majors, teach in area schools — internationalizing the educational environment for local children and teachers — and have a cultural experience including travel, field experiences and community activities.

The TEA teachers become a community among themselves, often continuing to communicate with one another after they have returned to their home countries to share experiences and ideas.

Subreenduth not only keeps in touch but has visited a number of their respective countries to conduct further professional development workshops.

“In July 2017, Dr. Subreenduth traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia to meet teachers who had been part of the Department of State-funded Teaching Excellence and Achievement (TEA) Program at Bowling Green State University,” wrote Diane Millar, regional English language officer at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam.

“Dr. Subreenduth graciously offered to conduct workshops with faculty and teachers while in Vietnam and she asked us for assistance to set up a three-day program for her. At Hanoi Metropolitan University Dr. Subreenduth shared her experiences on program planning and curriculum mapping with teacher education faculty. A second day-long professional development was held at Thai Nguyen University, where she met with the Teacher Education leadership and presented on ‘Considerations for publishing in international journals.’ Dr. Subreenduth’s role as editor of her journal provided important insights. Finally, she also worked with a TEA alumnus at Son Tay High School, where she presented two workshops to teachers and spent the afternoon working with a group of students.

“We appreciate that Dr. Subreenduth continues to be on touch with the university faculty and TEA alumni, assisting them as needed and responding to questions, as this certainly expands the impact our exchange programs,”Millar said.

“Her support to the educators is varied – from working with them on developing their own professional development workshops to implementation with educators. She serves as mentor, guiding them on their practice, providing research, pedagogy and presentation strategies,” Seals said. “Often they want to use workshop topics they did while at BGSU or that she has presented. She has worked with teachers to apply for various scholarships for further study in the U.S., U.K., and Australia; she has written reference letters for scholarships and job applications, and worked with these teachers on putting together proposals for their own research/conference presentations. During her time in various countries she has helped the teachers develop new networks to meet with key entities they would not otherwise have access to (e.g., U.S. Embassy, Department of Education, community and other organizations).

“She sees her major role as providing authentic opportunities for critical inquiry — ‘thinking spaces’ — rather than recommendations and strategies. It is her belief that it is only when ‘we get to a more grassroots understanding of those people and contexts’ can she work more authentically with her partners (whether it is teachers, schools, administrators).”

Now, Subreenduth is assisting a woman principal from Jordan (one of whose teachers was a TEA fellow at BGSU) who wants to better understand how to think about gender equity in Jordan. Subreenduth sees her role as listening and asking provocative questions to help the principal reflect on her own educator self, her community, and her students. Once it makes sense to her, she will be able to identify key strategies and Subreenduth will be able to continue discussions with her – “all of this is done creatively through virtual communication and often in a different language,” Seals said. “This is a move away from the traditional Western model of presenting best practices that a devoid of context and which often backfire or are unable to attain the desired outcomes because of the incongruity of the work.”

Subreenduth has also worked with youth groups and has given professional development presentations in various countries, especially for the last three summers, in India, Bangladesh, Peru, Bolivia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

In addition to her work through IREX and TEA, she has a longtime involvement in South Africa, both in teacher professional development and youth education and empowerment. Her work has been funded through the U.S. Department of State and the CIVITAS program for democratic education. She is also the co-director of the International Democratic Education Institute at BGSU. In fall 2010 she was a visiting scholar in educational policy studies at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

“Dr. Subreenduth has a long and distinguished record of outreach and community engagement,” said Dr. Dawn Shinew, dean of the College of Education and Human Development. “Her work has not only impacted the BGSU and local communities, but also had a global impact. From the beginning of her career, she has created valuable opportunities for international educators to develop and expand their knowledge, and also used these experiences to enrich the perspectives of local teachers and PK-12 students and members of the BGSU community. This multi-faceted approach has had a profound impact on all of those involved.

“Dr. Subreenduth is a scholar, mentor, friend, parent, sister, leader, innovator, global citizen, change agent and visionary. She has not only provided service and been engaged, she has changed lives.”