Ugandan Teacher Spends Month at Rock Bridge High School
COLUMBIA -For the month of January, Ugandan teacher Jacque Adong is spending her time miles from home in Columbia to learn from teachers at Rock Bridge High school. This teacher made the journey from the war-torn country to see what education is like in America.
"The best part was seeing the school because the school is so lovely," Adong said.
She's partnered up with Rock Bridge English teacher Katie Glover, who's been with the school for eight years.
"It's been a good experience for both of us to just understand how things work with the African cultural background and then also like my perspective because we integrate here and that's different," Glover said.
The Invisible Children organization set up Adong's adventure across the Atlantic.
"I'm grateful, just grateful for Invisible Children," she said.
The organization works to expose the actions of the Lord's Resistance Army or LRA and its leader Joseph Kony. The LRA and Kony are known around the world for killing civilians and abducting children - turning them into soldiers. Invisible Children also provides scholarships for kids impacted by the conflict to attend school near home.
"Many of the children in my school, majority of the North, we are involved in the war, so many of their parents are dead," Adong said.
She hopes to return a better teacher for the children so hurt by struggle.
"It improves my teaching skills because this is the second time I've been in a foreign place to really see how teachers handle their classes," she said.
So, why Rock Bridge? Another high school teacher can answer that question. Rock Bridge teacher Katherine Sasser spent a summer with her husband Pat in northern Uganda two years ago doing exactly what Adong is doing here.
"I think that first and foremost that summer reinvigorated my passion for teaching," Sasser said. "It opened our eyes to sustainable helping and the importance of education."
During her time in Uganda, the students tested Sasser beyond the so-called "crises" she sees here at home.
"You know it ranged from students who were abducted themselves and were returning, to students who lost family members, brothers, sisters. Literally everyone I encountered had been impacted in one way," she said.
It's an education hurdle Adong still finds herself trying to help her students get over.
"Some of them are traumatized," Adong said. "You have to have a line."
Despite a contrast in cultures and the impact of ongoing conflict, Adong has found some common denominators in the classroom.
"This class is almost like my class...First, I think some of them are ready to learn and some are not, just like in our places," she said.
While Adong's in this place, she's not the only one gaining from her trip.
"I think that anytime you have a chance to access to diverse perspectives you have an opportunity to grow," Sasser said.
"Talk to my class, tell them about my journey," Adong said.
When the exchange draws to a close at the end of the month, these educators hope lessons learned last a lifetime and relationships reach across the distance.
"I'm learning a lot," Adong said. "[Glover's] so passionate about teaching and she really knows what she's doing, yeah I like her."
Rock Bridge's student group East Africa Coalition plans to fundraise money to pay for Adong's trip.