News Archive
EHS teacher going abroad
The Intelligencer, 02.07.2014


Edwardsville High School history teacher Jon Parkin, along with a few St. Louis-area teachers, will be visiting Turkey later this month as part of a Teacher Study Tour sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation (TCF) in cooperation with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA) and its local chapter in St. Louis.

The study tours are the second tier of a program called Spotlight on Turkey, a nationwide educational program organized by TCF, WACA, and its local chapters. It is funded by a major TCF grant. The year-round program includes a Teacher Workshop on Turkey, the Teacher Study Tours and various cultural programs for students and the general public later in the fall.

Parkin, having taught for the Edwardsville District 7 Schools for the past 20 years, said that he learned about the WACA organization in previous years working with EHS students in Scholar Bowl, and he also had attended several WACA workshops in the past. 

On March 8, Parkin attended a one-day WACA workshop on Turkey and at the end of the workshop, he said the attendees were informed that because of their attendance they could apply to be part of the summer’s Teacher Study Tour to Turkey.  He happily applied.  “And I was one of the lucky five chosen to go,” Parkin said.  “So much of history is being passed through or along the shores of that part of the world so I’m really excited about the trip.”

The two-week trip departs on July 13 and returns on July 28 during which time the group will visit Istanbul, Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Canakkale, Bursa, Kusadasi, Pamukkale, Konya and Catalhoyuk, Cappadocia and Ankara. Throughout the tour, the teachers will have the chance to visit and learn about world-famous cultural, archaeological, architectural and natural sites of Turkey and meet with experts, educators and representatives of Turkish civil society.

Parkin spoke specifically about several stops along the trip. “We’re going to Gallipoli which was kind of immortalized in the film with David Bowie and Mel Gibson,” Parkin said.  

“Probably the most famous poet of Islam was a man by the name of Rumi and he’s of buried at a place called Konya.  He wrote a very mystical and spiritual and, at times for some people, maybe sensuous poetry about being swept away by emotion regarding God or Allah.  We’ll end up in Ankara where I think the founder of modern state of Turkey was buried.”

“While there, we are expected to conduct research and work with other teachers developing lesson plans for our own use, and for dissemination to other teachers/districts,” Parkin noted.  “I would like to design some sort of interactive web page that students and teachers could use to conduct research. Ideally I’ll have my classes assist me and contribute components.”

“So, it's a lot to do in two weeks, but I’ve done this kind of stuff before,” Parkin added.  “I’ve been to China a couple of times and South Africa.  It’s kind of like a working vacation because you’re with other like-minded teachers who are willing to give up some of their summer to travel and learn more and bring it back to the classroom.  I enjoy rubbing elbows with other people like that because they usually have a lot of really good ideas for lesson plans and things like that.”

A total of 479 teachers from across the United States have already visited Turkey since 2007 under this program.

Always a teacher, whether in school or on summer vacation, Parkin emphasized the quality of and amount of learning opportunities – for children and adults – that are available and free in the St. Louis area.  “St. Louis is a fantastic city to live near because there’s so much that one can do to learn new stuff and stay on top of things,” Parkin said. 

He encouraged people to attend the St. Louis Art Museum’s hour-long, free gallery tours or the St. Louis History Museum’s numerous free events such as the archaeological lectures that usually take place on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  “I went to one recently on Mayan cities in Central America –  the old and new world. It’s usually the latest research on archeology sites,” he said.

Parkin also suggested the educational opportunities offered through the Cahokia Mounds Archaeological Society.  “There’s a lot of stuff in St. Louis that people can go to for free or that’s relatively inexpensive,” he added.  “The world is being brought to our doorstep. I hope that everybody is interested and realizes that.”