Two Waconia Teachers Heading to Tanzania This Summer Thanks to St. Thomas Scholarship

For Anna Arndt and Erika Monson, eighth-grade teachers at Clearwater Middle School in Waconia, this summer’s break from the classroom will be different than usual.

As recipients of the 2011 University of St. Thomas School of Education GOES scholarship (Go-Experience-Share), Arndt and Monson will travel together to the Tanzanian city of Bukoba, located on the western shores of Africa’s Lake Victoria.

For two weeks the Waconia teachers will travel the region and establish partnerships between Bukoba schools and Clearwater Middle School.  They also will reconnect with a Tanzanian educator, Smart Baitani, who visited and spoke at Clearwater last December.

When they return, Arndt and Monson will share their experiences  with students and help establish sister-school relationships between Clearwater and Bukoba schools.

In addition to the visit from Baitani, this past year teachers and eighth graders from Clearwater hosted a soup lunch to help raise funds for a school in Bukoba.

Arndt said the students’ enthusiasm for the service-learning project “inspired me to travel to Bukoba to see if I could foster an on-going relationship with the school. The GOES scholarship will allow me to spend more time in Tanzania, not only helping the original school in Bukoba, but to travel to a school near Kilimanjaro to help there as well.”

“This trip to Bukoba will be the inspiration for an enrichment class that I plan to teach next year in preparation for another service project,”  Monson added.  She noted that several students having been collecting school supplies from area businesses and families. The teachers will bring the supplies and present them to a school in Bukoba.

“Listening to Mr. Baitani share that when the school in Bukoba receives pencils, they are broken into three pieces so that more students will have writing utensils, made me look around my classroom and realize how truly blessed we are in Waconia,” Monson said.

Now in their fifth year, the GOES scholarships provide travel opportunities for local educators. The goal is to integrate what the teachers have learned into their schools’ curricula.

“Without the scholarship, such an experience would not be possible for many of the teachers,” noted Dr. Bruce Kramer, dean of the School of Education at St. Thomas.

Arndt, of Chanhassen, has been teaching mathematics at Clearwater since 2003; she holds a bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a master’s from St. Thomas. Monson, of Waconia, has been teaching language arts at Clearwater since 2006; she holds a bachelor’s from Crown College.

GOES is supported by the Saint Paul Community Foundation.