Marshall Islands teaching program terminated
Students will no longer be able to travel to the Republic of the Marshall Islands to teach English in primary and secondary schools, due to the cancellation of the Dartmouth Volunteer Teaching Program. For the past 15 years, the program has sent about eight student interns to the Islands each winter term.

Students who participated in the program this winter opposed the cancellation, voicing their concerns in a letter to College President Phil Hanlon. The internship program, funded by U.S. grant money channeled through the Marshallese Ministry of Education, began in 2000 as the brainchild of emeritus education professor Andrew Garrod, who has overseen the participation of 140 Dartmouth students. Originally affiliated with the College’s education department, the program enhanced the department’s curriculum by offering hands-on opportunities to teach abroad, Garrod said. The volunteer program provided 10-week internships to Dartmouth undergraduates, as well as yearlong posts to graduates of other colleges. Local teachers acted as mentors to the students, who taught English, assisted with extracurricular activities and helped the Marshallese children stage a Shakespearean play each year. After Garrod’s retirement in 2010, however, the education department disaffiliated with the program, Garrod said. Education department chair George Wolford confirmed in an email that the Marshall Islands program is not affiliated with the department. Lynn Higgins, associate dean of the faculty for international and interdisciplinary studies, said the College has planned to phase out the program since Garrod’s retirement. In a response to the students’ letter, which was addressed to both her and Hanlon, Higgins said she and Garrod had communicated about ending the program after his retirement. In her letter Higgins also mentioned safety concerns as a having contributed to the decision. Higgins said in an interview that the internship program differed from regular off-campus programs because students could not receive academic credit for participating and did not undergo the safety screenings and processes that are required for College off-campus programs. Garrod said that as long as they act sensibly and respect Marshallese culture, students are just as safe in the Marshall Islands as they are on campus, In their letter to Hanlon, students emphasized that they felt safe in the small community of Majuro, the capital. Located in the Pacific Ocean, the Islands have a total land area of 70 square miles and a population of about 71,000. Julien Blanchet ’15, who attended the program this winter, said he had a “one of a kind” experience and pointed to the differences in culture and geography between the Marshall Islands and the U.S. Taylor Enoch-Stevens ’15, who taught three eighth grade science classes this past winter, described her experience as challenging but said the community welcomed her. Hannah Coleman ’15 said she believed the Marshall Islands program could serve as a model for other off-term programs. “I learned more in that classroom than I have in some of my Dartmouth classes,” Coleman said. Garrod said he looks back on the program’s tenure with satisfaction and pride. “I’m a firm believer that Dartmouth students — sometimes from quite privileged backgrounds — learn a very great deal from being exposed to a different culture, particularly in a developing country,” he said. Garrod said he is currently investigating the possibility of sending teachers to the Marshall Islands through a program unaffiliated with Dartmouth. Representatives from the Marshall Islands Ministry of Education did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
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