News Archive
Laurel teacher plans to share Turkey’s wonders with his students back home
Maryland Gazette, 19.07.2013
Laurel High School students soon might experience some of Turkey’s most historic sites — the excavation site at Troy, the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite and the dome of Hagia Sophia — through the lessons of the school’s art director, Kevin Holder.

Holder was one of 54 teachers nationwide — and the only representative from Prince George’s County — selected to participate in a two-week tour of Turkey from June 28 to July 11. It was an annual trip sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting Turkish culture, and the World Affairs Councils of America, a nonprofit promoting cultural exchanges. Both are based in Washington, D.C.

“Turkey has always fascinated me with its history and its culture,” said Holder, 51, of Columbia.

Teachers were selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants through the local World Affairs Councils, said Althea Georgantas, WACA program manager. Applicants had to be full-time teachers with at least three years’ experience. Priority was given to art and history teachers.

Applicants had to write a detailed essay explaining why they wished to visit Turkey and participate in a teacher workshop on Turkey held in the spring prior to being accepted, Georgantas.

The Republic of Turkey, in southeastern Europe and western Asia, has been home to numerous cultures that have left their mark on the mountainous country. Despite having a population of about 73 million people, Guler Koknar, executive director of the Turkish Cultural Foundation, said Turkey is not widely known in America.

“Turkey receives almost no or passing reference in the American school system,” Koknar said. “What we hope the teachers take home ... [is] that Turkey played a key role in history and is poised to play a key role in its region and the world today.”

The trip was paid through a grant from the Turkish Cultural Foundation, Koknar said.

Holder said visiting Turkey was a mind-opening experience.

“It was like stepping into history,” Holder said. “There are ruins from the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantines and the Turks. It’s one thing to read about it, but it’s totally another to actually be there.”

“It was absolutely fascinating,” Holder said of visiting ruins of the 2,000 year-old Temple of Aphrodite in western Turkey. “It was really remarkable to actually be there, see the ruins, the elaborate carvings on the structure. It was just fantastic.”

Holder said he was warmly welcomed by the Turkish people. Some were curious about America and his work, and wanted to have their pictures taken with him.

Holder said he plans to show images of ceramics, carvings and temple designs to his students, who can use them as inspiration to create their own works based on Turkish influences.

Laurel High Principal Dwayne Jones said having instructors travel overseas is a great benefit to students.

“Sometimes, our kids, the only world they experience is Laurel or the greater D.C. metro area,” Jones said. “The more they become exposed to the wider world out there, the more marketable their skills become.”