Sandra Kowalczyk, reading specialist at Patrick Marsh Middle School, attended the Qudwa 2017 Global Teachers’ Forum held Oct. 7-8 at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Whatever the question, education is the answer,” Kowalczyk said, repeating a refrain that she said resonated throughout the forum.

Kowalczyk, who teaches literacy intervention classes, was one of 20 attendees invited from the United States. The forum attracted more than 900 teachers, principals, policymakers and authors from 80 countries to discuss the latest global trends in empowering teachers and inspiring students.

The keynote address, delivered in Arabic with translation into English, by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation emphasized the importance of adapting teaching methods and curriculums to the 21st century.

The Qudwa Forum serves as an incubator for new ideas and approaches to teaching, which will spread throughout the expanding community of global educators, Kowalczyk said.

In 2015, Kowalczyk was recognized as a Varkey Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist worldwide. Since then, she has served as a Varkey Teacher Ambassador (VTA), collaborating with her VTA colleagues representing over 50 nations at Qudwa Global Teachers’ Forum and at the Global Education & Skills Forum in Dubai, UAE, last March.

Kowalczyk keynotes WCTE convention

Kowalczyk also recently attended the 2017 Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention, held Oct. 12-13 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Continuing Education and attracting an audience of educators from throughout the state.

Kowalczyk’s keynote was titled “Becoming World Readers: One Book at a Time.”

She also facilitated a half-day workshop, “Words without Borders,” exposing middle and high school English teachers to contemporary writing from global cultures. Kowalczyk has studied, lived and traveled in 65 countries on five continents, and said she shared ways she uses her own international experiences to spark student engagement with literature reflecting the cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity of the world.

Additionally, in a breakout session “‘Book’ Trips around the World: Background Knowledge and the Reading Process”, Kowalczyk helped demonstrate how reading can be a powerful and accessible way for learners to ‘travel’. She shared ways to pair photographs, videos, cultural objects, music, textiles, recipes and spices with text to evoke the five senses and build background knowledge to help students connect to the cultural backdrops of reading material.

Kowalczyk has taught at Patrick Marsh Middle School for 18 years. She also runs the Go Global after-school club.

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