by Claire Miller
With exams looming and one semester left of her college career, early childhood education student Janna Gibson took a break from studying for her finals and created a blog.
The first post on the new blog expressed her interest in a spring-time College of Education study abroad program in China, which would place her in a Chinese classroom for her last few weeks of student teaching. She had created a website detailing the program and encouraged readers to consider supporting her in her efforts to teach abroad.
A scholarship opportunity to pay for the trip had fallen through just days before, she explained, and with just a few clicks, readers could give a $2 donation to cover part of the cost of the trip. She assured readers that the donations would be returned if she couldn’t raise enough funds by early 2011, but this disclaimer soon proved unnecessary.
Within a few days of going live with the site, Gibson received a flood of responses, not only from her loved ones but also from high school classmates she had not seen for more than a decade and even complete strangers.
“I received a third of the funds for my trip on the first day,” said Gibson, who is in the College of Education’s Birth Through Five Program. “I was blown away by the support I got. It was really humbling to see this outpouring of love.”
By Christmas Day, Gibson had raised enough money to go abroad in the spring. She believes the trip will be invaluable in broadening her perspective on teaching.
“It’s exciting to learn from other cultures,” she said. “I’ll be there teaching, learning about their pedagogy and seeing how their children learn.”
The study abroad program will take Gibson and 12 of her fellow early childhood education classmates to Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu, China. They will teach English classes, learn more about the Chinese language and culture and visit several elementary schools and historical sites.
Along with preparing for her trip, Gibson is spending spring semester student teaching in Gail Williams’ kindergarten classroom at Morningside Elementary School in Atlanta and taking her final classes in the College of Education. As part of her class assignment, she is collecting books to donate to underprivileged children in China and even has her kindergarten class participating in the book drive.
Gibson’s path to education was by no means direct — she earned an associate’s degree in business from Georgia Perimeter College in 2007 and worked as an executive assistant for a few years before deciding to change her career path — but now her way is clear. When she returns from her trip she will graduate from a program that has fostered her passion for teaching.
“The Early Childhood Education Department and the Birth Through Five Program in particular have been a perfect fit for me,” Gibson said. “It’s such a tight-knit group and my professors have been supportive and encouraging every step of the way.”