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Education professor spends year teaching in South Korea, expands knowledge to share with students

May 1, 2014
KOKOMO, Ind. — Shirley Aamidor's year teaching in South Korea isn't just about teaching, it's an international experience she plans to share with her students and enhance learning in the classroom.

Indiana University Kokomo

Aamidor, associate dean in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Education, took a one-year sabbatical to teach in Seoul, South Korea, working with both undergraduate and graduate students in early childhood education.

These experiences will make her a better teacher when she returns to campus, she said.

"The more international experience one has, the more you can understand the people of the world," she said. "It helps with learning and engaging with students. While I am broadening my experience, I am also gathering ideas I can bring back to share with my students."

Aamidor lives in an apartment close to Sungshin University, where she teaches two classes in the Department of Early Childhood Education. She leads undergraduates in an introductory class, and works with graduate students on trends in research.

She teaches in English, and admires her students' ability to grasp what she is teaching.

"To take a course in content that is new, in a language that is not your first language, takes a sense of challenge. I admire that," she said. "They are a remarkably patient and understanding group of students."

In addition to teaching at the university, she spends two days weekly observing at two local elementary schools, to understand how education works in South Korea.

She likes that Korea's early childhood education relies on play and center-based learning, using best practices.

"Korea is a very modern society in terms of its educational focus and educational philosophy," she said. "There is an emphasis on play, and doing what is developmentally appropriate for children, and teachers are very calm and gentle. In the United States, we've moved away from play-based instruction, and the expectation is such that if you get to kindergarten and are not ready, you are deficient."

Aamidor hopes to coordinate a visit to IU Kokomo by her Korean graduate students, and also wants more IU Kokomo students to visit South Korea.

"South Korea is a wonderful opportunity for our business students to experience some of the business opportunities that exist here," she said. "Sungshin Elementary is interested in a partnership with the School of Education to bring our students there to teach enrichment classes. International experiences are something that should be part of every student's education."

Dean Paul Paese expects Aamidor's experiences will create more opportunities for students, both in South Korea and Kokomo.

"I hope it opens the door for South Korean teachers to come to IU Kokomo for a master's degree in education during the summers," he said. "Shirley will bring back a different perspective on teaching and education to share with our students."

Aamidor finds Korean people to be friendly, as well as hard working and ambitious.

"I think what is interesting to me is the work ethic of the people," she said. "Everyone works, and they work very hard. They've become a modern, industrial society in a very short span of time, with the second or third largest economy in Asia. It's very safe to walk there, and public transportation is very efficient. It's very easy to get around, even for someone who doesn't know Korean."

The children work as hard as the adults, often going to hagwons, or enrichment programs, after school.

"It's no surprise to me that South Korea ranks first or second on international comparisons of academic achievement," Aamidor said. "Parents are always looking for 'that thing,' that will give their child an edge. It's a very ambitious society."

Her experience is part of a continuing partnership between IU Kokomo, Sungshin University, and Jesus University, also in South Korea. Linda Wallace, dean of the School of Nursing, pioneered the first faculty exchange nearly 15 years ago. Korean nursing students visit the campus each winter, and IU Kokomo students travel to South Korea in May.

Michael Tully, assistant vice chancellor for academic affairs and professor of education, previously taught at Sungshin University, and Sung Ja Whang, a retired nursing professor from Jesus University, is currently a visiting lecturer in the School of Nursing.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/16/2014