LAWRENCE — For six years, Lucas Vieira taught English to middle school students in Rio de Janeiro, but it was his ability to visit a Lawrence restaurant by himself and carry on a conversation with the staff that provided a major confidence boost .
“I feel validated,” she said. “The fact that I don’t struggle so much means that all these years I have been a teacher. Investing in my knowledge, learning English, coming here to improve it, validates your practice.”
Vieira is one of 43 Brazilian teachers who are at KU this semester as part of a six-week program to improve their English language and teaching skills and learn about US culture.
Rio de Janeiro state’s K-12 English teacher team arrived in Lawrence in mid-January. International Short Programs operates the PDPI program, which translates to Professional Development Program for English Language Teachers in the U.S. The program is funded by the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of University Education and administered by the Educational Institution international and by the Brazilian Fulbright Commission.
KU is one of seven universities across the country that host Brazilian teachers as part of the program. In 2019, KU last hosted the program, which was put on hold for several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brazilian teachers are taking courses taught by the Applied English Center and focused on English communication, US culture and educational technology. The group is also visiting public schools in the area to observe local English as a second language programs.
Another important component of the program is the opportunity to connect with teachers of English as a foreign language and learn about US culture. Activities include dinners in American homes, local sporting events, and cultural outings in Kansas City and Topeka.
“PDPI is an extraordinary program and to be selected to host it is a testament to the strength of our Applied English Center faculty and international short program team,” said Joe Potts, Associate Deputy Chancellor for International Innovation, the development and strategic partnerships. “They’ve done a great job designing curriculum and cultural experiences for Brazilian teachers, and wonderful learning and sharing is happening both ways.”
For Vieira, the show is her first time outside of Brazil, and before she got there she didn’t know much about Kansas other than the “Wizard of Oz” and the birthplace of Superman. During her time at KU, she had to adjust to the colder Kansas climate and gathered the distinctly Midwestern habitat to apologize for minor inconveniences. He has also experienced the US higher education system firsthand.
Although Vieira had to adjust to the cold, he was impressed by the warm embrace he received from the community and the support of the international short program team.
“Lawrence has an inclusive culture. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all being from another country,” Vieira said.
Vieira is excited to be back in her classroom in Brazil, where she can test out the different teaching strategies she has learned. As part of the program, he is expected to share the knowledge gained at KU with his Brazilian colleagues.
“The program here has focused on how to apply that knowledge and bring it back to your reality in Brazil,” Vieira said. “It gives you a lot of tools that you can combine or customize.”