Colchester High School history and international politics teacher Jim Price recently returned from Turkey after spending two weeks studying the country through the Turkish Cultural Foundation’s (TCF) Teacher Study Tour program. Price was one of four Vermont teachers selected by the Vermont Council on World Affairs to embark on the trip, which was fully sponsored and organized by TCF in collaboration with the World Affairs Council of America. The other Vermont participants were Terry Buehner, a history teacher at Burlington High School, Lisa Mobus, an English and social studies teacher at Riverside Middle School, and Jennifer Lucey, a librarian at Champlain Valley Union.
“I feel humbled and honored like you can’t even believe,” Price said of being selected to participate in the program. “What we saw still (has) me shaking with amazement. I would love to go back.”
Last summer, Price was the only Vermont educator chosen to go to Germany for the Goethe Institute. Reflecting on the experiences he had viewing concentration camps, museums and other historic sites in Germany, Price said he was “astounded” he had been given the opportunity to visit another country with so much history to explore.
Overall, 54 U.S. teachers were selected to participate in one of two TCF Turkey tours this summer. During their time in Turkey, the teachers learned about the Turkish educational system through meetings with teachers and students from various Turkish schools. Participants also visited numerous cities and villages across the country, beginning in Istanbul, where they toured historical sites such as the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Spice Bazaar and the Topkapi Palace.
Other highlights of the trip included a visit to Bursa, the first capital of the former Ottoman Empire, and a trip to Ephesus, the site of the Celsus Library – one of the richest libraries in the ancient world when built in 117 A.D. From there, the teachers ventured to the archeological excavation of Catalhoyuk, a 7,000-year-old Neolithic settlement, and toured the Cappadocia region, known for its ancient cave churches.
Price explained that he was touring Turkey during Ramadan, the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from the break of dawn to sunset.
“I was given a (Ramadan) booklet to study with a schedule along with my itinerary,” said Price. “I carried and read from it nearly the entire time on the trip and couldn’t believe so many Christian stories are connected to Turkey, such as the presence of the four disciples.
“Overall it was one of the most phenomenal educational experiences I’ve had in my life, period,” he added, while showcasing a handful of silkworm cocoons he found on the Silk Road that he plans to show his classes. “The amount of information to bring to students is incredible. After all, young people have to bring this world back together.”
Emily Davis is a summer intern for The Colchester Sun and The Essex Reporter.