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A North County social studies teacher joined a group of teachers on a trip to Germany earlier this month as fellows of the Transatlantic Outreach Program (TOP) during the “Wunderbar Together” Year of German-American Friendship. 

This summer, an unprecedented number of social studies and STEM educators traveled to Europe to learn about Germany and how educators there teach their students. 

After an extensive review of 300 applications earlier this year, TOP selected 115 study tour participants from all 50 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces.

North County High School teacher Ally Klein filled out the extensive application for the trip in January. She said the application took about 10 hours to complete. It wasn’t until March that she found out she was one of the few educators selected to go on the two-week professional development trip.

Klein left for orientation in Washington D.C. on June 28 and from there, left for Germany where she spent two weeks before returning on July 13.

As a central part of its mission, TOP organizes study tours to Germany, providing educators with a nuanced and balanced view of this important international partner. These educators observe, discuss, and eventually implement information and best practices from Germany in their classrooms and communities in ways that can only be achieved through direct exchange.

Klein traveled to Munich, Kaufbeuren, Geisa, and Berlin and participated in a lot of different learning events on the trip. 

“Some things were more history-based and things were more about contemporary Germany,” said Klein. “We learned things about their school system and how Germany handles their very difficult history.

“They’re very big on being eco-friendly and we also learned a lot about that,” Klein said.

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Klein summed up the purpose of the whole trip explaining that they were there to learn how the history of Germany has impacted the country in the present day. 

“The goal is for teachers to bring what they’ve learned back to their classrooms in America and incorporate Germany more so into their curriculums,” said Klein. “Overall, it’s a really competitive program so it was so exciting to get this the first time I applied.”

Based at the Goethe-Institut in Washington D.C., TOP provides North American educators of social studies and STEM subjects, as well as workforce decision-makers, with classroom materials, workshops, virtual exchanges, and study tours. These bring North Americans and Germans together to enhance the global competence of students, to bridge the "skills gap" between education and workforce development, and to strengthen the grassroots bonds of the transatlantic partnership. 

Thanks to the additional support provided by the “Wunderbar Together” Year of German American Friendship, TOP will send two additional groups to Germany in 2019, for a total of eight. These two “Wunderbar” groups include one additional study tour for STEM educators as well as a study tour for a completely new audience: technical and community college faculty.

While all eight study tours will explore the German apprenticeship model (duale Ausbildung), the study tour for technical and community college faculty will focus solely on this important topic, providing best-practice examples in Germany for more successful workforce development in the U.S. 

Additional study tour focus topics include the German education system, German and EU politics, sustainability, sustainable technologies and innovation, collective memory, corporate social responsibility, diversity, and much more.

Since 2002, more than 1,600 educators have traveled to Germany as TOP fellows.

TOP is a public/private partnership of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the Goethe-Institut, Deutsche Bank, the Robert Bosch Stiftung, and the Siemens Corporation.

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Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3628, or at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com.

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