Local teacher selected as Korean War Legacy Foundation Fellow

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Leah Hoyle of Independence High School was one of only 30 teachers selected as a Korean War Legacy Foundation [KWLF] Fellow this summer.  As a fellow, Leah spent a week in the Republic of Korea researching Korean history and culture. The trip funded by the KWLF was from July 23rd to July 30th and focused on building a deeper understanding of the Korean peninsulas rich history, its simultaneous achievements of rapid economic development and democratization, and close friendship with the United States through visits to key historical sites, museums, and conversations with Korean teachers and students.  

Teacher fellows were able to travel to the Demilitarization Zone (DMZ) to see first hand the border that has divided the Korean people for more than sixty years. Fellows were given special access to the border area and were able to stand only feet away from North Korea near where two South-North Summits took place.  The teacher fellows were also special guests at the United Nations Armistice Day celebration, which was attended by Korean War veterans from many nations and even the Prime Minister of Korea, Lee Nak-yeon. The ceremony, which was broadcast live in Korea, is an annual commemoration of the contributions of UN veterans of the Korean War that is held on the anniversary of the formal cessation of fighting.  

Fellows also attended a teacher summit in which US educators were able to talk about teaching social studies with educators from the Republic of Korea.  The use of simultaneous translation allowed for the teachers from both nations to engage in a vibrant discussion about teaching the Korean War and contemporary Korea in United States classrooms.  Teacher fellows were also able to get a closer look at the Korean education system by doing a school visit. Seoul Digitech High School is known for their technology and graphic design programs, and while visiting our fellows tested a virtual reality programs created by students at the school.

The fellows were also introduced to Korean history and culture.  This included a visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace used during the Joseon dynasty, an examination of national treasures at the Korean History Museum in Seoul, and a stay at a Buddhist temple on Gangwha Island near Incheon.  At the temple, teachers learned about a monks life, practiced meditation and had a special question and answer session with the head monk of the monastery. According to Korean War Legacy Foundation President Jongwoo Han “It was an honor to share the history and culture of Korea and the amazing legacy of the Korean War with American Teachers”

Reflecting on her experience, Leah stated, “Staying abreast of current events is integral to our Academy of International Studies Seminar: Community and Perspective. Last year, as we watched the news together, my students expressed concern, even fear regarding North Korea’s nuclear missile program. They had cursory Korean War knowledge from World History but wanted to know more about the current situation. This inspired me to apply to the Korean War Legacy Foundation’s 2018 Korean Research trip. The experience was truly transformative. As we traveled from the DMZ to a Buddhist temple, I learned so much from the teachers/students, military, and monks I met along the way. When future students have questions about Korea, I’ll move beyond the textbook and headlines… I can now provide them my own, first-hand knowledge.” 

In order to coordinate this trip the Korean War Legacy Foundation worked closely with the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs.  At the same time the foundation has worked to develop curriculum and resources for teachers to use that cover the Korean War and its legacy, including collecting of over 1,000 interviews with war veterans, which can be found at http://kwvdm.org.  You can also find more information about education materials and the Korean Research Trip at https://koreanwarlegacy.org

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