Wo Center Fellows Bring Global Perspective to Campus

Camila Chaudron '08

September 12, 2014

“It’s an amazing experience,” said Emily McCarren, director of Wo International Center. “Not just for them, but for the School as well. Their presence directly supports our mission of international learning.” McCarren was speaking of the Wo Fellows program, which welcomes educators from abroad for an extended stay on campus. This September, Punahou is hosting two Wo Fellows: Indira Santos, a sustainability and art teacher from the Mexico-based community organization “EntreAmigos” and Beno Atan, head of educational programs and guide training at “Explora” in Rapa Nui.


Both are participating in on-campus activities by attending classes, giving guest lectures and observing lessons related to their fields of study. “Because they’re here for such a long time, they’re given the space to learn and an opportunity to reflect,” said McCarren. Santos will be in Hawai‘i for a month, while Atan is on the Island for two.

“The Fellows bring in an outside perspective to our campus,” Chai Reddy, associate director of Wo International Center, added. “As President Jim Scott says, new and outside individuals act as a mirror for us. They have the freedom to ask questions that cause us to embark on the process of self-reflection.”

Previous fellows have included Linda Tong and Aimee Li, both from Soong Ching Ling School in Shanghai, China. Tong, the vice principal of Soong Ching Ling School, stayed at Punahou for six months during the fall semester of the 2013 – 2014 academic year, while Li spent the following spring semester on campus.

“Given our strong global network of partner schools, we always work with people and partners that we trust,” McCarren explained, adding, “The Wo Fellows program allows the individual the chance to really understand and then impact the institution, at home and abroad.”

When Punahou sent a group of CapSEEDS students to China during the summer of 2014, they were graciously hosted by Tong and Soong Ching Ling School, so the intraschool partnerships are often reciprocated. Both Tong and Li also helped guide the after school Mandarin language immersion program. For her part, Li was thrilled to spend time on campus, where she observed the methods used to evaluate and train teachers: “The educator exchange program gave me the opportunity to explore my own areas of inquiry related to my practice as a second language teacher,” Li wrote.

Santos, one of the current Wo Fellows, is finding new ways to integrate her sustainability initiatives into her programs at EntreAmigos. “My job is to find ways to attract and engage young students in service projects that benefit our community,” she explained. Santos is also in charge of building the recycling program and ensuring the green certification of the buildings at EntreAmigos. At Punahou, she is working closely with the Outdoor Education department to observe lessons that integrate the campus gardens, including the native Hawaiian plant garden, into the curriculum.

“I’m thinking about how to engage students organically, how to capture their natural curiosity and integrate it into an understanding of larger cultural and environmental issues. Punahou’s outdoor education faculty is good at that, so I’m learning through observation,” Santos said. Art is also integrated into her sustainability programs, so she is meeting with Junior School art faculty to learn more about age appropriate projects, and sharing techniques for creating artwork using recycled materials.

While she is fluent in English, Santos’s primary language is Spanish, so Academy Spanish language faculty invited her to visit their classrooms and speak with students in her native tongue. There, she served not only as a linguistic resource, but also as an example of the benefits of multilingualism – Santos uses her knowledge of both languages to act as a puente, or bridge, between the tourists visiting her village and the local population.

Atan, another current Wo Fellow, is spending two months in Hawai‘i to consider the issue of sustainable community development and the role of partnerships in communities. In addition to spending time at Punahou, Atan is also working closely with Kupu, a local nonprofit organization run by John ’96 and Juliana Rapu ’97 Leong, which serves to “empower youth through character building, service learning and environmental stewardship opportunities.” Atan supported some of the educational programs for the CapSEEDS Rapa Nui student trip over the summer of 2014, where a group of Punahou seniors visited the island as part of their capstone project.

At Punahou, he hopes to learn about the School’s guiding sustainability initiatives and the myriad ways to implement them, meeting with K – 12 educators and administrators to learn about sustainable design principles and educational lessons. “Rapa Nui is less developed than Hawai‘i, but they have very similar environments, so I want to learn lessons from Hawai‘i’s history,” Atan reflected.

He’s also bringing his knowledge of Rapa Nui to the classroom by sharing the island’s history and culture with students. He met with several sections of Introduction to Social Studies to participate in a question-and-answer session with the freshmen students enrolled in the course, who had just watched a film about the historic moai statues on Rapa Nui. Atan is also planning a presentation for a middle school math class, where he plans on using the dimensions of the moai as an example of a measurable object to compute and determine information about the statues.

The Wo Fellows have offices on campus and are available to meet with faculty and staff interested in making connections with international educators.


  • 9/15/2014 4:22:03 PM

    Buen reportaje... Gran desafio. – Ernestina Diaz


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