Kennesaw State students share Brazil teaching abroad experience with state’s first lady

Sandra Deal, center, hosts student-teacher abroad participants, from left, Jori Mosley,…

Georgia (Sep 1, 2015)

Sandra Deal, center, hosts student-teacher abroad participants, from left, Jori Mosley, LeShaun Dillett and Michaella Taylor, and Vice Provost Lance Askildson.  

When Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal embarked on a special summer trade mission to Brazil, she took along some insights from three recent Kennesaw State graduates and a special gift for children she planned to visit.

As part of a student-teaching abroad program to Brazil in Spring 2015, Jori Mosley, LeShaun Dillett, and Michaella Taylor worked with K-12 classes at the American School of Rio de Janeiro (EARJ), the only American-style school in Brazil that offers educational programs on par with those in the United States.

Deal learned of the relationship between Kennesaw State’s Bagwell College of Education and EARJ while preparing for a Georgia Department of Economic Development trade mission to Brazil with her husband, Gov. Nathan Deal. Passionate about educating young people, she had plans to visit EARJ while in Brazil. She invited the Kennesaw State students and officials to the Governor’s Mansion to discuss Brazilian culture over lunch.

“The first lady contacted KSU as soon as she learned that we had a program there,” said Lance Askildson, Kennesaw State’s vice provost for global affairs and executive director of the Global Affairs Division. “She invited the student-teachers and me to brief her for the trip.”

“She wanted to gather information about Brazilian social and cultural norms through the eyes of native Georgians,” said Taylor, then a senior in the Early Childhood Education program who taught fourth grade at EARJ. “She wanted to know about our everyday lives there…She was also very interested in learning about the school. She wanted to know about its layout, the students and the overall culture.”

In addition to the briefing, the students also helped the first lady select the right book for a classroom reading she planned during her visit to EARJ.

“They helped narrow down her options based on their knowledge of the school and of second-language learners in general,” Askildson said. They ultimately decided on T.J.’s Discovery, published by the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy at the Atlanta Speech School and illustrated by Dr. Karinna Riddett-Moore. It is the story of a young girl overcoming her fear of the dark with the help of her family. The book is often used as a teaching tool to help children learn grammar and vocabulary.

Kennesaw State’s Division of Global Affairs commissioned a special copy of T.J.s Discoverycontaining Portuguese translations of the text for Deal to give EARJ students for their English-language learning.

The three students also gave the first lady a photo album featuring highlights from their time teaching in Brazil. It included images of their classrooms, their community, sightseeing excursions and their written insights.

“I learned a great deal about teaching from this experience,” wrote Dillet, who taught second grade at EARJ. “Most importantly, though, I learned about myself and opened my eyes to a new world. I am so thankful for the opportunity to student teach abroad.”

All three students graduated shortly after returning from Brazil. Taylor and Dillett earned bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Education, while Mosley earned her master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.

The meeting with First Lady Deal exposed the excellence of both the international teaching abroad program and participating students, said Binbin Jiang, interim director of global education and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership.

"It was a perfect opportunity for the three Bagwell College of Education student teachers to share their outstanding experiences teaching in Brazil with Mrs. Deal,” she said. “It also brought more visibility to BCOE's highly successful and well-known student teaching abroad program.

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 Patrick Harbin

Division of Global Affairs


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit