Uganda Student Teaching Broadens Marymount Grad’s Perspective

    Bette Stobo, who recently earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Marymount University, knows everything won’t always be perfect in the classroom –and that it doesn’t need to be. That’s a lesson she learned while student teaching in a remote Ugandan village this past semester.

    “I learned to cope with things like having no internet or smart board,” the Arlington resident said. “Power outages were a regular occurrence. As a teacher you’re not always going to have the tools you think you need, but you learn they’re not always necessary.”

    Stobo, who taught math to 57 students in what equates to fourth grade in the U.S., called the four weeks she spent at the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda’s Bududa District “the best thing I’ve ever done.” She’s confident the experience will serve her well as a teacher.

    Arlington Academy of Hope was founded in 2004 by John and Joyce Wanda, natives of Uganda who immigrated to the U.S. to start a new life. The school grew from their determination to provide educational opportunity to the children of their home villages.  An ardent advocate of educational opportunity, Marymount President Matthew D. Shank sits on the organization’s advisory council.

    Working with the Academy is an experience Marymount faculty and students have had since 2011, when Dr. Alice Young, a recently retired Marymount professor of education, traveled there to conduct teacher training. Now MU students and faculty go to Uganda annually to train local teachers, deliver supplies and conduct research, exemplifying a local partnership with a global impact.

    Dr. Shannon Melideo, associate dean of Marymount’s School of Education and Human Services, made her third trip there in February and took along her 16-year-old daughter. They stayed for 12 days. Melideo was originally scheduled to lead two teacher workshops but ended up doing four.

    “They are so appreciative of everything we do there to help them,” Melideo said. “It makes me feel like my work is immediately worthwhile. You can’t come back from Africa unchanged.”

    Melideo, who was Stobo’s supervisor, said the time in Uganda fits perfectly with Marymount’s Common Ground initiative, which fosters intellectual curiosity, service to others and a global perspective. It can also be a distinct career advantage.

    “When a teaching job comes down to two equally qualified applicants, a principal will choose the one who has the experience abroad,” Melideo said. “They tend to have more self-awareness and a greater appreciation of their own culture, other cultures and people.”

    Stobo was one of seven Marymount education majors student teaching abroad during the spring 2016 semester.  Two students taught in Italy and four in New Zealand.

    “Student teaching abroad provides students with an opportunity to develop global competence, better preparing them for success teaching in diverse classrooms,” said Sarah LaRosa, the university’s assistant director for global engagement.

    In addition, students can study abroad for a semester, complete international internships for course credit, and participate in a variety of unique one-week embedded “Global Classroom Series” programs developed by Marymount’s Center for Global Education.

    These experiences are often life-changing.

    While in Uganda, each morning Stobo had to hike uphill for a mile to get to the school from the guesthouse where she stayed, which had electricity but no air conditioning. Some students live five miles from school.

    “The roads aren’t paved and there aren’t a lot of them because it’s so mountainous,” she said. “Many children have to leave for school at 4 or 5 a.m. They were so grateful to get an education and so happy to be there and have guests bring them new ideas.”

    Marymount education majors who student teach abroad are also required to have local experience. Once she returned home, Stobo student taught at Arlington Traditional School, which has a partnership with the Uganda primary school.

    “Going back into a classroom here I was in shock because we have so many tools at our fingertips,” Stobo said. “Now I definitely don’t take anything for granted.”    

    The global perspective Stobo gained continues to broaden. Last year she taught in Costa Rica. Now pursuing a master’s degree in special education at Marymount, she’s headed to Panama in July as part of a graduate course.


Photo 1

Recent Marymount University graduate Bette Stobo, left, is pictured with Loy Butala, the mother of Joyce Wanda, a native of Uganda who co-founded Arlington Academy of Hope with her husband, John, while living in Arlington.

Photo 2

Bette Stobo teaches students who are making flip books of fractions.

Photo 3

Bette Stobo is pictured at a welcome ceremony with a group from “She’s the First,” an organization that provides scholarships to girls in low-income countries with the goal of creating first-generation college graduates.

Photo 4

Bette Stobo, who taught math to 57 students in what equates to fourth grade in the U.S., called the four weeks she spent at the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda’s Bududa District “the best thing she’s ever done.”

Photo 5

Many students at Arlington Academy of Hope, located in a small village in Eastern Uganda, walk five miles through mountainous terrain to get to school.