A teacher exchange is a one-to-one exchange experience where a group of teachers in one country host the same number of teachers for a period of time and then travel to stay with their counterpart in their home country. During their time as hosts, the teachers plan activities for their visitors, but the visitors also participate in school visits and speak to the students at the host school. Thus, all teachers get the chance to be part of a home and experience the “teacher life” in their host country.
The participating teachers are asked to volunteer for a minimum of one year with AFS (as liaisons, to help with orientations, host social events for the students, etc…) and find a role that is in line with their skills and interests. All teachers also go through the Global Competence Certificate training with their counterparts to have a deeper understanding of culture, communication styles and a lot of other topics that can help them engage in a virtual exchange with their classes before and after the exchange.
AFS has been able to facilitate teacher exchanges in the past and has another exchange in progress in 2023. To see pictures of last year’s exchange, please visit the Teacher Exchange page on the AFS-USA website. Previous and current experiences have had grant funding to support the initiative to ensure that teachers are not funding the entirety of their experience out of their own pocket. This element is typically what opens the door to conversations with school leaders. If you believe that a project like this will spark hosting and volunteerism locally and the volunteer team is prepared to nurture the project and new volunteers, please reach out to Jill Woerner, Director of Educational Outreach at email@example.com.
The 2022 exchange was in collaboration with our AFS partner in Austria. The participating communities are Muscatine, Iowa with the support of the Greater Illinois Area Team in the U.S. and the region of Graz, Styria in Austria. Since the launch of the exchange, the local high school has signed off on its first two AFS exchange students and all five participating teachers are now registered AFS volunteers. The Austrian teachers traveled to Iowa in October and the Muscatine teachers traveled to Austria in late November 2022. Both experiences included about 10 days of travel to the receiving country.
The 2023 exchange locations are still being finalized.