Mizzou Ed students connect with Brazil classrooms

A partnership with Mizzou Academy creates unique experiences for social studies preservice teachers

Centro Educacional Leonardo da Vinci, Brazil

“As simple as it sounds, the best part of the classroom visit was getting to meet the students!” said preservice teacher Lacie Gerfen, “The students introduced themselves one by one, and I genuinely loved getting to see everyone’s face and interact with them. They are such a great bunch!”

Lacie Gerfen
Lacie Gerfen

Lacie is part of a group of social studies preservice teachers who kicked off the month of March with Brazil high school classroom visits via Zoom. During these visits, preservice teachers shared about their lives on campus, answered questions, congratulated high school students on class presentations, and observed teachers who were navigating technology to engage both in-person and online students simultaneously. These dynamic international classroom visits were made possible through a collaboration between Mizzou Academy and the College of Education’s Social Studies program. 

Mizzou Academy unit signature

This semester, Mizzou Academy welcomed their largest group of teacher candidates—thirty Phase II social studies education students. These students gained authentic experiences with curriculum design, gave feedback in asynchronous classes, and observed and interacted in hybrid international classrooms in Brazil.

Jeff Kopolow, a lead social studies teacher at Mizzou Academy, proposed the idea for the international classroom visits. “We have the unique ability to not only demonstrate online learning, but to do so on an international stage,” said Kopolow. “Given an eager, willing partner school in Vitória, ES — planning and implementation were all a proverbial piece of cake.”

This school partner, Centro Educacional Leonardo da Vinci, is a K-12 school located in southeast Brazil. Da Vinci has partnered with Mizzou Academy for the past five years. Their coordinator, Cristiano Carvalho, jumped at the opportunity to engage with the field experience students.

During the visits, Carvalho shared photos, videos, and enthusiastic messages about what an important learning opportunity this was for all. “It’s been an innovative experience, global in scope, and very enriching for the students and education professionals from both institutions,” said Carvalho. 

Elizabeth Price
Elizabeth Price

Elizabeth Price, an undergraduate in the social studies education cohort, reflected that sentiment. “The best part of our experience with our Brazil classroom field trip was being able to communicate with students and seeing them bursting with positive energy. I know I can learn so much from their joy and kindness!”

Ben Halverson
Ben Halverson

“I think one of the best parts of the experience was seeing how the classroom functioned over Zoom,” said undergraduate Ben Halverson. “With the way our world has been affected by the pandemic, it is definitely something I have personally experienced as a student, but getting to see what it is like from a teacher’s perspective was an extremely cool experience.”

Mizzou Academy is an online and blended school system in the College of Education. “Our local and international programs offer a rich learning context, not only for our K-12 students and school partners, but also for preservice teachers,” said Interim Executive Director, Kathryn Fishman-Weaver. “Over the past year, we have been proud to welcome more preservice teachers to learn with Mizzou Academy students and faculty.” 

Da Vinci School and the Mizzou Academy team are already thinking through how to expand this experience to other content areas and future classroom visits.