Study Tours

The Educational Outreach Program offers study tours for teachers that provide opportunities for meaningful and substantive hands-on learning about Latin America and the Caribbean.  Participating teachers engage in pre-trip workshops to deepen their understanding of the country they will visit and examine their role as a U.S. teacher in a global context. During the study tour, teachers visit places of historical, cultural and political significance, discuss their experiences in the classroom with local teachers, and participate in a homestay.  Following the trip, teachers create and disseminate new curriculum based on their research and exploration of a relevant topic. __________________________________________________________________________________________

2014 Study Tour

Connecting the Americas: From North Carolina to Yucatán, Mexico

June 17-26, 2014


Read the blog of one of our teacher participants, Nicole Emmett, a teacher-librarian in Person County.

Teachers began the study tour with a lecture from Dr. Fidencio Briceño Chel, a renowned scholar and professor of linguistics and multilingual education, Maya language educator, curriculum developer, and advocate for the inclusion of Maya language instruction in local schools. This helped to provide a context for school visits and exchanges with local K-12 teachers.IMG_1739

IMG_2103Teachers visited four schools during the study tour, each in a distinct city or town.  They participated in presentations, classroom observations, and discussions with teachers to learn about everything from the use of Maya stories in elementary instruction, to working with parents, to policy aimed at standardizing education.

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IMG_1881In Mérida, we were all taken by the Monumento a la Patria, an intricate structure paying homage to Yucatecans’ Maya roots.

After visiting the beautiful but heavily touristic Chichén Itza, we headed east to see an archaeological site a bit more off the beaten path, Ek’ Balam.  There we climbed the tallest pyramid and reveled at the view of this once thriving metropolis. IMG_2046

Following stays in Mérida and Valladolid, we headed south to Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a town now designated the Center of Maya Culture in the state of Quintana Roo.

IMG_2171There we explored a nearby ecological reserve, Siijil Noh-Ha, which was built on an ejido, a communal land provided to local residents following institutionalization of Mexico’s land reform program.

We took a cooking class and learned to make empanadas.  Learning about local dishes, ingredients, and food-related cultural practices was a significant part of our daily activities. IMG_2252

IMG_2296On our final full day, we visited the regal ruins of Tulum, which sit alongside the Caribbean Sea.  One could imagine pre-colonial Taíno traders arriving from the islands to exchange salt and cotton for the Mayas’ copper, obsidian, and jade.

Teacher participants are creating new curriculum for their students, based on one topic or theme that they learned about during their study tour experience.  Check back with us for updates on the curriculum!

Meet the Teachers:

Linda McDonald, Buncombe County Schools

Linda was born in Chicago and raised in Connecticut. She graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications and a Master’s degree in advertising/marketing. She worked for advertising agencies in Chicago and then San Francisco for 15 years. She then retired to do consulting and raise her two children. Linda returned to school to get her teaching certificate in 2004 and has been teaching fourth grade ever since. She moved with her husband and children to Asheville, North Carolina, in 2005. In her “spare” time she enjoys knitting, gardening and singing with the Asheville Symphony Chorus.

Claudia Walker, Guilford County Schools

Claudia was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. She moved to New York City when she was 8 months old with her parents, who then had to go back to Guatemala to arrange/organize their papers for U.S. residency. Claudia is a wife of one, Charles; mother of two, Charles and Carmen (15 and 13); and owner of one Roemer-dog. She has been married for 16 years and has lived that same amount of time in Greensboro after moving here from New Jersey. Claudia loves to travel, read, cook and take pictures. She is an only child born to Ed and Dora Lara. Ed now lives in Guatemala again and Dora has since passed. Claudia has been teaching for 22 years and has always been in a fifth grade classroom. Her passion is teaching kids and the push for their STEM education. She has been an advocate for pushing the STEM curriculum at her school for the past five years. Claudia has a BA in English Literature from Rutgers University, M.Ed from University of Phoenix, and NBCT (renewed this past year). She is also a member of the Teacher Advisory Council for the National Academies of Science.

Daphne Mclaurin, Guilford County Schools

Daphne Mclaurin teaches fourth grade at Murphy Traditional Academy in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a twelve-year veteran teacher of Guilford County Schools. Daphne received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and eventually earned her teaching license from North Carolina A&T State University. She is originally from Greensboro, but grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, after moving there at age 10. She is a mother of three; two boys and a girl. In her leisure time, Daphne enjoys reading, watching movies, drawing, and traveling with her children.

Jennifer Cassidy, Guilford County Schools

Jennifer was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, but has lived in Greensboro since 2005. She attended North Carolina State University for her undergraduate studies where she obtained a BS in Biological Sciences; after graduation she switched paths to become a teacher. Jennifer went to Guilford College for her teaching license and received her M.Ed from Elon University this past August. She enjoys traveling, outdoors activities, and socializing with friends and family. Jennifer is married and her family consists of two wonderful dogs who keep her and her husband company and make them smile. She is finishing her fifth year as a teacher at Murphy Traditional Academy, an elementary school in GSO, where she has taught fourth and fifth grades during her teaching experience.

Nicole Emmert, Person County Schools

Nicole is 43 years old and has been married for 22 years to Mark, a sergeant with the NC Highway Patrol. They have two daughters: Holly is a freshman biology/chemistry major at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ivey is a high school junior who loves dance. They love to travel and have been on road trips/cruises to all 50 states and several other countries. Nicole has lived in Roxboro, North Carolina, for most of her life and has worked as a teacher/librarian at the Oak Lane Elementary School for 16 years. She graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1992, got her Master’s from East Carolina University and renewed her National Boards two years ago.

Tyson Pentecost, Person County Schools

Tyson Pentecost is a fourth grade teacher at Oak Lane Elementary. She is in her sixth year of teaching. Tyson received an undergraduate degree from Appalachian State University and is currently working on her Master’s degree in library and information studies at UNC-Greensboro. She lives in the small town of Roxboro, North Carolina. In her free time Tyson loves to go to the gym and run 5 K’s. She also likes to cook and try new recipes.

Carrie McMillan, Durham Public Schools

Carrie describes herself as “a North Carolinian through and through.” She is from Charlotte, but has lived in the Triangle for the past seven years. Carrie graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill three years ago. Carrie is in her third year at YE Smith Museum School teaching first grade, and she continues to learn something new everyday. Her interests include catching up on favorite TV shows, watching any Tarheel sport, and most recently, rock climbing!

Betty Brandt Rouse, Durham Public Schools

Betty Brandt Rouse is from Goldsboro, North Carolina. She is the youngest of four children. Her family is very important to her. Betty Brandt graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May of 2011 with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Spanish. This is her third year teaching first grade at Sandy Ridge Elementary School. Betty Brandt likes to cook, read books, be outside, and hang out with friends.



CTA Journal Prompts – Daily journal prompts that helped us to reflect on our experience through writing and discussion

Aprender el inglés – Ambroggio – A poem in Spanish and English that speaks to the experience of becoming bilingual in the U.S.

Click here to learn about previous study tours

Copyright 2015 | The Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University