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Bonn Voyage

CEHHS Senior Student Teaches in Germany, Opens Doors for Future Instructors

When applying for her student teaching assignment, Christina Petrie submitted several safe choices before throwing in her dream location just to see what would happen.

Shortly thereafter, she was contacted by Rebekka Boysen-Taylor, director of field placement for the Curriculum and Instruction Department (C&I) within the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences (CEHHS). Boysen-Taylor told Petrie that if she was serious about her dream pick, CEHHS would advocate for her with university administration to see if they could make it happen.

As a social studies teacher, multicultural education is incredibly important to me, especially as U.S. classrooms are getting more diverse culturally. I can’t think of a better way to learn about different approaches to multicultural education than to be in this setting.Christina Petrie, Senior

As a result, Petrie became the first U of I student in several years to spend an entire semester student teaching outside the United States, helping CEHHS and the International Programs Office (IPO) create a blueprint for future student teachers wishing to follow suit.

“We thought she was the perfect candidate and both CEHHS and U of I were willing to try this as a test case,” Boysen-Taylor said. “We think this will spark the conversation about international student teaching and how it can enhance their experience, even if they want to come back to teach in Idaho.”

Woman sitting on lawn with globe.
Christina Petrie.

Home Field Advantage

Petrie had several factors going for her when she applied to teach in Germany. She was born and raised there, moving to Moscow prior to her junior year of high school. Additionally, she holds dual citizenship in both countries and speaks German fluently.

But the idea to go back and teach there was rooted in more than just an opportunity to go home again.

“As a social studies teacher, multicultural education is incredibly important to me, especially as U.S. classrooms are getting more diverse culturally,” she said. “I can’t think of a better way to learn about different approaches to multicultural education than to be in this setting.”

Petrie was also willing to do a lot of extra work required to secure the placement. Not only did she need to be comfortable with international travel, have proper documentation and pass background checks, but she also took the lead in finding somewhere to teach.

She located the Bonn International School (BIS), where there happened to be an open spot for a student teacher in social studies. A major advantage for Americans wishing to teach at BIS is that English is the instructional language used by all faculty.

“The students see me as an American,” Petrie said. “I don’t even tell them I speak German!”

Petrie performing well at BIS bodes well for U of I’s interest in building an international student teaching program according to Kate Wray Chettri, director for Education Abroad at IPO.

“All international student experiences are based on relationships U of I has within those countries,” she said. “We don’t really have those in place for student teaching right now but based on this successful initial placement, we’re excited to explore long-term planning.”

Woman standing in front of white building with flags.
Christina Petrie.

Rebekka Boysen-Taylor

Director of Field Placement, Assistant Clinical Professor, C&I

Foreign Relations

Petrie is scheduled to return to the U.S. in January 2024, when she will begin U of I’s Master of Curriculum & Instruction online program. Despite teaching seventh grade at a private school in a foreign country, her goal after completing her graduate degree is to teach in a public school system in the Pacific Northwest before exploring careers in curriculum design.

Based on her upbringing overseas and her experience teaching outside the United States, she hopes to bring a more balanced approach to her classroom when delving into subjects like geography and world events.

“We have 80 different nationalities in this school but in the U.S., a lot of Americans don’t know where the Middle East is,” she said. “I want to show a more open-minded view of the world so we can focus on what connects us.”

Petrie also hopes to help CEHHS with building out the international student teaching program. Her experience in living, working and maneuvering around a foreign country will be invaluable to students who are interested in following her footsteps.

Boysen-Taylor and Chettri are also excited to expand the program. Chettri noted that Petrie was not only the perfect candidate for the first overseas placement, but it also came at the perfect time.

“This is our moment,” she said. “International travel is almost back to pre-Covid levels. IPO and CEHHS are working on expanding international opportunities for students interested in teaching abroad. We think this can be a huge opportunity for all U of I students.”

Man and woman standing in classroom.
BIS instructor Glenn Gutterman and Christina Petrie.

Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing.

Photos courtesy of Christina Petrie and Rebekka Boysen-Taylor.

Published in November 2023.

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