International School Partnerships and Educational Access with Mizzou Academy

Posted in: News

Roundtable Dialogue

Grade 4 Mizzou Elementary Scholars at Jean Piaget in Santos, SP, Brazil

Robert Garner marveled at the courage and excitement of a group of 10-year-olds “standing up there [in front of the class] and presenting in English. This is what it’s about,” he said. “They’re taking risks. Learning how to do it. Yes, there are ‘big’ successes,” he continued, “but it’s the daily things that lift us up and keep us going.” 

Garner serves as a teacher and as the assistant coordinator for the Mizzou Academy programs at Colégio Dante Alighieri (São Paulo, SP, Brazil). Colégio Dante was founded by Italian immigrants to Brazil over 100 years ago. Today, the school serves 4,700 PK-12 students. Approximately 850 of these students are enrolled with Mizzou Academy in elementary, middle, and high school programs. Garner shared this story at our recent international partnership roundtable on Tuesday, April 2, 2024. 

He was joined by Alexandre Vieria from Colégio Jean Piaget  (Santos, SP, Brazil), Norma Casasola from the Mayatan Bilingual School (Copan Ruinas, Honduras), and Tolga and Sarah Özdemir from Altın Eğitim (Ankara, Turkey). Mizzou Academy Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Fishman-Weaver facilitated the dialogue, which was the first of many sessions scheduled for our Cognia accreditation site visit. 

As a global school, Mizzou Academy has a rich tradition of partnering with international schools. Our roundtable panelists included partners with Mizzou Academy in elementary, middle, and high school programs. They represent small schools, big schools, new partnerships, and longstanding relationships. Together, we work with these school leaders to serve K-12 students in Brazil, Turkey, and Honduras. 

Partnership at Mizzou Academy 

Mizzou Academy decisions are tethered by our core values of inclusion, innovation, access, and partnership. These values are articulated in our Core Values Overview, and they come to life in schools and classrooms across the globe. 

Our beliefs about partnership state that learning should be relational and connected, and our community approach focuses on both our school communities and our students’ local communities. In our efforts to humanize learning, we center relationships, practice responsiveness, engage in reciprocal learning, and implement student-centered programs. With a focus on relationships, we strive to ensure that every student is seen and supported by a learning partner. 

The Tuesday roundtable celebrated these practices. Fishman-Weaver called it “an authentic dialogue.” She continued, “During this roundtable, we heard about how the Mizzou Academy programs function across schools and contexts. In the spirit of reciprocity, we all learned from each other. These moments to share space, even virtual space, as a global professional learning community are so important for community building and continuous improvement.”  

Alexandre Vieria, the school director for Colégio Jean Piaget in Santos, SP, Brazil, shared that the Mizzou programs have helped his teachers to show students that “the world is the neighborhood.”  Vieria also noted positive changes in student culture since partnering with Mizzou Academy. He observed that many more students are finding the courage to study abroad after taking courses with us. He noted everyday acts of courage, as well, such as saying yes to new opportunities to learn and grow. Fishman-Weaver has visited Jean Piaget several times over their eight-year partnership with Mizzou Academy. She, too, has seen this growth in students she first met as elementary students, who are now getting ready to graduate high school. This year, Jean Piaget dramatically expanded K-8 participation in the Mizzou Academy programs at their school.

As the newest partners represented at the roundtable, Tolga and Sarah Özdemir from Altın Eğitim (Ankara, Turkey) were excited to share about their first high school graduate last year and the ten students currently working toward graduation in the coming year. During the roundtable, we met Arda Özdemir, one of our graduation hopefuls. As he leaned into the Zoom screen to say hello, educators from the United States, Brazil, and Honduras smiled and waved back. 

Expanding Access 

Of the partners represented at Tuesday’s roundtable, the Mayatan Bilingual School is our longest-standing partner. Mizzou Academy first partnered with the Honduran school–located in the hill above Copan Ruinas–in 2010. In addition to their international partnership with us, the teaching faculty and staff are also an international group with educators from all over the world, including different parts of Honduras, the United States, England, Russia, Colombia, Venezuela, and El Salvador.

More than half of the 400 students in attendance at the Mayatan Bilingual School receive scholarships, many from individual sponsorships. School administrator Norma Casasola shared how meaningful it is for her students to earn a high school diploma from the U.S. “For these students, having a diploma from the U.S. has changed their lives.”

The Mayatan Bilingual school was founded in 1991 by mothers who wanted local children to receive a quality bilingual education. Mizzou Academy is proud to partner with schools around the world to expand access to quality education and extended opportunities. 

The Importance of Student Voice

When we asked the roundtable to share some recent celebrations from their schools, Casasola noted that the skills and confidence students gain through the Mizzou Academy Speech classes are a special success story for her.  “The students love that they can choose topics of interest to them,” she said. “They’re so excited and proud of the videos they record that they often share them outside of class.” 

She shared that students are also using their voices in other powerful ways, including through imagination and creative writing.  Sarah Özdemir joyfully told the story of discovering writers in her classes for the first time. She shared that writing is in many ways the most challenging for her students because Turkey does not emphasize writing in its national curriculum, which is centered in math and science. Therefore, she says finding a program like Mizzou Academy that provides writing opportunities is “a really big deal!”  

Özdemir also celebrated one of her students who had recently expressed an interest in drama and had just applied to the New York School of Art and Design. Sarah shared that if “she gets accepted, that would be a bonus. But the real success story is seeing [students’] confidence and passion.” She shared that Mizzou Academy’s Career Planning course played a key role in helping this student discover her passion and path. 

Everyone nodded, and Fishman-Weaver shared that “as educators, one of our primary goals is to affirm that our students have important and interesting stories to share and that our world is better for hearing these stories.” 

One of the guiding beliefs we share as a team is that the world is small and deeply connected. In taking this time to celebrate together the power and reach of student voices, the international partnership roundtable proved a joyful affirmation of that belief.