Wednesday, June 11, 2014NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - During the Spring Semester three Westminster early childhood/special education majors and two professors traveled to Israel for eight days to conduct research concerning the role of religion in public schools.
Students Kearsie Dougherty, Lauren Sutton, and Emily Tittiger were joined by Tina Keller, education lecturer, and Amy Camardese, associate professor and chair of the department. Partnering with Western Galilee College, the students were able to survey elementary students at Druze, Jewish and Arab public schools. In addition, classroom teachers were interviewed concerning their views on the role of religion in their classrooms.
"Traveling to Israel made me truly realize that the world is so much bigger than my world," Dougherty said. "Not only did this trip impact me so personally, but it has made me more aware as a future teacher. I recognize the importance of educating children about the cultures and events going on in the world around them to mold them into active, global citizens from a young age."
Dougherty, a senior early childhood/special education major, is a daughter of Robert and Laura Dougherty of Wexford and a graduate of North Allegheny High School.
"My experiences in Israel not only changed my perspective on culture, but changed my perspective on education," Sutton said. "I have a greater understanding of what education means and I feel this has impacted my teaching tremendously. I am exploring new ideas and strategies in my teaching that I do not believe I would have attempted to incorporate without the amazing knowledge I gained during my time in Israel and while conducting research."
Sutton, who recently graduated with a bachelor of arts in early childhood/special education, is a daughter of Paul and Patricia Sutton of Pittsburgh and a graduate of Seton-La Salle High School.
"Traveling to Israel and completing educational research has been by far the most beneficial experience Westminster College has provided me with," Tittiger said. "Traveling to a new country broadened my perspective in teaching and learning. Experiencing a home stay, and going into Arab Jewish and Druze schools has given me a whole new perspective into cultural differences. As a prospective teacher I have gained a new outlook and awareness of cultural identity which will positively affect my teaching and future classroom."
Tittiger, who recently graduated with a bachelor of arts in early childhood/special education, is a daughter of Richard and Maria Tittiger and a graduate of Ambridge Area High School.
The student stayed in homes with family members of Dr. Randa Abbas, who was a Westminster Visiting Scholar-in-Residence during the Fall Semester of the 2013-2014 academic year.
"It was a life-changing experience for Emily, Lauren, and Kearsie," Camardese said. "They were able to employ research skills and gain world perspectives.
Camardese, who joined the faculty in 2001, earned an undergraduate degree from Ohio University, master's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. from Kent State University.
Keller, who joined the faculty in 2012, earned an undergraduate degree in elementary education from Messiah College and a master's in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in children's literature from Pennsylvania State University.
Funding for the trip was provided by the Heinz Endowment.