In Philippines, EPI Alumnus Shares Knowledge from USA
During his time in the USA, Noel Plazo brought the Philippines to Florida. His students tried mango chips and caramel candies, chatted with Filipino students via Skype, and marveled at images of the powdered-sugar sand of Boracay’s beaches and the fiery dome of the Mayon volcano.
Now, Plazo’s bringing what he learned in the USA back to the Philippines. Over a two-day period this summer, he held a series of seminars and workshops at the Special Children Education Institute in Pasig City. He covered topics such as developing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), designing classroom and behavior management approaches, and supporting student success in inclusive classrooms. This reciprocal sharing of knowledge across cultures is exactly the point of Educational Partners International (EPI) and its Exchange Visitor Program: to facilitate mutual understanding and dialogue across cultures and national borders.
Plazo arrived in Orlando as an EPI program member in 2017, coming to serve as a special education teacher at Meadowbrook Middle School. The insights he would share back home this summer were informed by his years of experience within the American classroom. During his time with EPI, he would not just teach U.S. students the school’s curriculum but introduce them – and their community – to aspects of Philippine culture. Through the cultural exchange activities Plazo organized, students played traditional games and learned about flora and fauna. They also heard about everyday life in the Philippines, from what children ate for breakfast to COVID-19’s impact on the country. With surprise, students discovered that many names familiar to them from American pop culture had ties to the Philippines, from Bruno Mars to Olivia Rodrigo, Manny Pacquiao to H.E.R. To bring his culture to life, Plazo might don a barong (a traditional embroidered shirt for men) or team up with other Filipino educators to celebrate everything from dance to sports.
By first sharing his knowledge and culture while in the USA and then exposing those in his native community to what he gleaned in Florida, Plazo is fulfilling the spirit of cultural exchange that’s behind the EPI program. His participation in the event in Pasig City came just a month after his return to his home country, and it was met with gratitude. For his efforts, he received a certificate of appreciation from the institute, as well as praise from other EPI program members.
“This is a wonderful achievement for teachers to learn and to develop,” noted Edward Chang, who also became an EPI alumnus this summer.
“Congratulations to my kababayan, Mr. Plazo,” wrote Charemie Cui, an EPI program member from the Philippines. (Kababayan could be translated as fellow countryman.) “So proud.”
The sharing of lived experience and the intercultural exchange of ideas may have been the culmination of this part of Plazo’s teaching journey, but it was a destination he foresaw long ago – during his first years in the USA.
“In America, ’Everyday is a Learning Day’ for me,” Plazo shared back in 2018. “We really have to respect their educational culture and system, so that we can apply what we learn here in the U.S. to our educational system back home in the Philippines.”