Renaissance Middle School teacher Amir Doctry’s energy and vision for cultivating global learning for his students is unmatched. In 2018, The Montclair Fund For Educational Excellence (MFEE) awarded him a grant to allow Renaissance students to interview and learn from professionals in different countries. In Fall 2019, Doctry came back to MFEE with a grant proposal that was even bigger and bolder: let’s connect students across the world and allow them to lead the way to change.
Since then, Doctry has built The Global Citizens Project, an elective course that provides students with meaningful shared learning experiences with students and teachers from Japan, Vietnam, Belarus, and Russia. Together these students have developed action plans for addressing the United Nations’s goal of providing quality education for all.
On Saturday June 27th, families from the class gathered together for a virtual MFEE Teacher Toast to honor Doctry and his students, to celebrate their incredible accomplishments, and to raise money for their future plans.
While many teachers struggled with setting up Google classroom during distance learning, Doctry and his students hit the ground running – navigating different languages and different time zones to hold regular “Ambassador Conferences” with their global peers to talk about the issues and to create their action plans.
Using Zoom and Flipgrid, the students have built relationships with students from across the globe, and they have been able to get a different perspective on life in other countries through various culture sharing activities.
Initially, all conferences were just held in English, but students quickly realized that expecting everyone to speak only in English was unfair. “The Global Ambassador meets with kids from around the world have been my favorite,” said Yael Miller, one of Mr. Doctry’s students. “And now, we are all translating, and it is so much easier to communicate and understand, and I don’t feel like we are forcing other kids to speak English to communicate with us.” They have been translating from English to the other languages like Japanese and Russian using the chat box.
Students are expanding their learning by now becoming global philanthropists. They created the GLEAN (Global Learning Exchange of All Nations) fund to raise money to support their idea of providing remote lessons to students who lack electricity and internet access.
Renaissance student Nes Danzinger expressed the excitement and empowerment that all students are feeling. “Before I would have thought about just donating money to a charity, but now I see we can do something. It started with us just saying hi to the other kids, but now we are ready to do things.”
The students are working on a plan to record educational videos on unused cell phones to share with students in countries around the world who do not have access to technology. By building their own VR goggles, they will be able to foster connections across all these worlds. As they continue to work on their vision, the students are contacting celebrities and philanthropists to move their vision into reality.
Mr. Doctry plans to include educators from additional countries in the fall, and looks forward to working with students, even after they graduate middle school.
“We are just getting started!’ said Doctry. “This is about working on making a quality education available to all students around the world. This is something that is timeless. We can break down the digital divide and barriers to education.”
Renaissance student Ethan Milleisen thanked Mr. Doctry for this class. “It has felt like the most important thing going on for me. This didn’t feel like school but like changing the world.”
MFEE funded the cameras and technology that Doctry has been using to connect all these classrooms, teachers and students.
“This is exactly what MFEE was created to do,” says MFEE founder Joyce Michaelson. “Educational Excellence grants nurture our teachers’ innovative ideas, which in turn unleash the innovation and creativity of our next generation of leaders. We are so thankful to our donors for making exciting work like this possible.”
MFEE is creating a dedicated fund to continue supporting the work of GLEAN. Mr. Doctry’s toast raised over $1,000. To donate and continue to support Mr. Doctry and his students’ vision: https://givebutter.com/doctrytoast