Today, in the United States and around the world, interacting with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives is more the rule than the exception. As Caterina Cregor Blitzer, Director of International Education for the Indiana State Department of Education said in a recent interview with Kappa Delta Pi, “The world is here!”
Ms. Blitzer brings personal experience in global citizenship to her role at the Indiana DOE. Born in Italy, Ms. Blitzer discovered that her parents, her village (“in the broadest sense of the term”), and then her new home of New York all helped create just the right atmosphere for her to learn what it means to be American, first and foremost, and Italian American as well. During her 10-year span as the Executive Director of the International Center of Indianapolis, Ms. Blitzer often worked with individuals from Indiana industry who were about to embark on opportunities abroad—and she realized how rare it was for people to have had any kind of educational preparation for global fluency. “I began to wonder what experience they might have had in K-12 to set the stage and help prepare them,” she said. “And that triggered in me a desire to be a cultural and communication bridge, to work to foster understanding and bring the benefits that are available through global competencies.”
When Indiana created the Directorship for International Education, the state became one of only 10 in the nation to have a position solely dedicated to global education. The goals for International Education at the state level involve creating and supporting opportunities for Indiana educators and students to expand their global competency in a variety of ways—through creative school partnerships, international exchange programs (for teachers and students), and by providing comprehensive resources that help make it all possible.
Ms. Blitzer brings a whole-system approach to her view of international education and seeks not only to provide information and involvement opportunities for educators, but also to facilitate the links and funding that make the opportunities possible. She believes the time is right for increased awareness and investment in global education. Because of the priorities of the new U.S. administration, she says, “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to articulate goals on par with the best countries in the world.” Developing global competencies is more important—and more possible—than ever before, and preparing our students with 21st Century Skills means new models for international education are needed through the entire K-12 spectrum.
Working in partnership with a number of organizations and funders, which includes support from the Longview Foundation, the Asia Society, and local partners, the International Education division of the Indiana DOE is able to provide public forums and workshops on global education. In addition, a grant from the Longview Foundation made possible the soon-to-be-released Indiana Education Goes Global, a resource guide for schools that provides model programs, best practices, and other resources for international education and exchange. (We will post a link to the guide as soon as it is available.)
Next segment: How Teachers and Principals Can Get involved