Faculty: Making Connections

Susan BarduhnSusan Barduhn, a past president of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language, calls us to recognize how connected we all are to one another.

I am on the faculty of the MA in Teaching at SIT, but long ago I was a student here, and it changed my life and set me on my life’s path. I have taught, lived, and learned the languages spoken in Colombia, Kenya, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. I also worked in London for 15 years.

Recent events in Kenya have me remembering happier days in Nairobi. The story I want to tell you took place when I was the Director of The Language Center there. One day in 1986 I got a letter from two SIT alums, people I had never met. They said that to commemorate the United Nations’ Year of Peace a torch was going to be carried around the planet, mostly by people running with it in relay. They asked if I would please get involved in the planning.

I’m not a runner, but someone from SIT was asking me a favor, and that was all I needed to know. I soon found myself at the first organizational committee meeting, where I was the only non-Kenyan present – and the only woman. The Chair was someone high up in the government, and he spotted immediately that I was an organized sort of person and put me in charge of logistics for both Kenya and Tanzania!

We spent a year organizing the event, which also included many educational and cultural activities. I got to know so many people in both countries I never would have met otherwise. It was particularly fun working with the Tanzanians, all young people like myself.

And then the day arrived! Large crowds and dignitaries were at the airport to welcome the torch, which was soon on its way through Kenya and would cross the border to Tanzania on its way to Dar-es-Salaam. Not one inch of its Kenya journey was empty of crowds cheering and chanting for world peace. Some of the country’s most famous runners took their turn, as did school children.

My part was to end at the border and so I hadn’t brought my passport. But the Tanzanian team insisted I celebrate with them, so legalities were tossed aside and I accompanied the torch.

To know and have worked with many Kenyans on a project of world peace becomes especially meaningful and connects me to today’s news in ways I could not have predicted back then. I understand now in a personal way that helping people prepare to teach language in a context of intercultural understanding is vitally, critically, and immediately important.

Coming to SIT means joining a global family of teachers dedicated to world peace and not just the teaching and learning of language. Someday, someone you have never met might ask you to do a favor. And, like me, you can say YES!

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