Smithfield Herald

Two Johnston County teachers headed to India

Two Johnston County math teachers will travel to India in July as part of an international study program.

Bill Worley of Early College Academy and Melinda Simons of South Johnston High School are among the 37 teachers chosen for the trip, funded by UNC’s Center for International Understanding.

The teachers will be looking primarily at how technological advancement has changed the country.

Worley said exponential growth and rapid change make India an exciting place to visit. “India is a place of great change right now,” he said. “We’re hoping to see all the things they did that made them a world leader in technology.”

But the teachers also expect to see the country’s underbelly. Despite the country’s tremendous growth in recent decades, many Indians still live in poverty. “We’re going to see two extremes,” Worley said. “We’ll see great wealth and abject poverty.”

Simons is familiar with the contrast. Her sister, Sarah, does charity work for a nongovernmental agency in Jaipur. And while there, Simons is looking forward to helping her sister renovate an orphanage for young girls.

“Because of the population, people can get really lost in the community,” she said. “I know that they have a lot of orphans.”

India’s population has grown from about 465 million in the 1960s to roughly 1.2 billion today.

“The first thing that strikes me is the number of people in the amount of space they have and yet how diverse they are,” Worley said.

The teachers will get a glimpse of that diversity over their two-week trip, traveling roughly 800 miles across the country. They’ll stop in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Agra, the home of the Taj Mahal.

Worley said he wants to expand his students’ horizons by sharing some of his experiences when he returns. “My kids will probably never see India,” he said. “Maybe they’ll get to experience it through my eyes, which is more personal than reading about it in a magazine.”

Simons has already begun incorporating India into her curriculum. She asked students in her Advanced Placement statistics class to compare India and the United States statistically in a number of areas, including health care and education.

Simons said students always respond better to lessons rooted in the real world. “I’ve seen repeatedly over the years how my personal experiences outside the classroom enhance the curriculum for my students,” she said.

Simons is hoping to give her students a better understanding of a country that will likely play an increasingly important role in the global marketplace. “Our students have to become globally aware,” she said. “For our students to be competitive, they’ve got to be aware there’s more than just south Johnston County.”