Erik Juergens

BPS Snowden International Hi, Boston MA

Research the cultural and linguistic implications of French colonization in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire to experience nuances of the West African French dialect and inject African history into French language curriculum.

Where I've Been

  • Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
  • Abidjan, Ivory Coast
  • Dakar, Senegal
  • Saint Louis, Senegal

My Fellowship in Images

Visiting mysterious rock formations near the Senegalese and Gambian border.
Fishing in the Saloum Delta National Park
Saint Louis, Senegal
The town of Man, Côte d'Ivoire
Fondation de la Paix in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire
Safari in Bandia Game Preserve in Senegal

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

Through this trip I have had the opportunity to gain knowledge about West Africa that I would never have been able to gain through reading and online research alone. Being on the ground in two culturally unique French-speaking countries, Sénégal and Côte d'Ivoire has taught me a lot about myself and how I handle being dropped into cultures that are very different from my home culture. I learned to be adaptable and flexible when things did not always go as anticipated or planned.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

Because of this wonderful experience how now have first-hand knowledge about the cultures, histories and linguistic nuances I witnessed during my travels. I have a new-found confidence when incorporating facts about these countries into my curriculum and lessons. I also have some very engaging photos and videos that I was able to capture along the way that I can use in the classroom in addition to some artifacts was able to purchase in each country.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

I went to a region of the world that I had never visited before and that is not a place widely travelled by people I know. I feel that I met this challenge with enthusiasm and did not let homesickness discourage me. I learned that there is a lot that I can survive when I am completely out of my comfort zone.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

I am already seeing how interested my students are in the presentations I have done so far in class. They are highly engaged and asking very insightful questions. I hope that this continues and that it will be a motivator for students to improve their French speaking abilities and build their cultural knowledge. I hope to incorporate new projects and in-class simulations that provide students opportunities to learn hand-on about these 2 countries.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

Colleagues have asked me to come into there classes and present to their students. I hope to do this throughout the year. I also hope to work with another teacher who is interested in Africa to develop a travel program for students from our school to Sénégal.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

I would like see my students host a school-wide cultural day where they teach other students what they have learned in my class about Sénégal and Côte d'Ivoire.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

The biggest challenge I see is encouraging the community at large to look beyond stereotypes and to find things that we have in common with people from countries like Sénégal and Côte d'Ivoire. I feel better equipped to lead this effort I my classroom and school community after the experience that I had on this trip.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

I am not sure that I would have had the courage to make this trip without the financial support of the Fund For Teachers. I feel that this experience was something that I really needed to inject new life into my teaching practice. Since my return from Africa I have been newly inspired to rethink some of my teaching approaches. Seeing the eyes of my students and their excitement when I show them pictures from the trip and tell them stories has confirmed for me that the grant was well worth it.