GIF Teacher Candidate

Future Educators Gain Global Perspectives

The Gonzaga-in-Florence (G-I-F) program has been inspiring students for more than half a century, thanks to its generous supporters. This past spring, nine teaching candidates received the opportunity to experience international learning at G-I-F.

Gonzaga-in-Florence Teacher Candidates

The spring 2013 Gonzaga-in-Florence teacher candidates.

Chelsea Baker, Sara Brasch, Kim Colombini, Michael Herbers, Lyndsey Mehlert, Christine Paino, Emily Sullivan, Rebecca Talboy and Sam Wyss were placed in four Italian schools for the spring semester of 2013 to experience teaching in a school system vastly different from what they were otherwise used to.

“Italian teachers scream at their students, but they also hug their students,” said Dr. Jennifer Nelson, Director of Secondary Education, who accompanied the Gonzaga teacher candidates to Florence. Dr. Nelson added, “The cultural differences were both difficult and interesting to observe. Our candidates came to understand and respect another culture and education system.”

The teacher candidates faced unique challenges in the classrooms that illustrated cultural gaps and how a little quick thinking and understanding can bridge them.  Lyndsey Mehlert was teaching a high school math lesson that used a “two point and three point shot” basketball analogy when one of the students asked “what does a ‘two point and a three point shot’ mean?” Without blinking an eye, Lyndsey drew a basketball court on the board and explained what she meant to the class.

Another teacher candidate, Chelsea Baker, was teaching a class of Italian first graders about the days of the week in English. The week prior, Chelsea had taught the class the English words for the colors.  She wrote the days of the week on the board using a different color for each day. When it was time for the students to repeat the days of the week, they all said the color of the word instead.

GIF Student TeachersEvery experience was a lesson learned for both the Italian students and these G-I-F student teachers. While there, the Gonzaga teacher candidates grew and flourished in their roles, exceeding the expectation to teach at least two full lessons and offering assistance in small group and one-on-one teaching. They planned alongside the Italian teachers, solo taught, worked with groups and with individual students. The experience demonstrated these students’ commitment to intercultural competence and global engagement, as well as their academic excellence.

Michael Herbers (’14) took from his time at G-I-F a broader sense of confidence. “Being in a school in Florence has widened my abilities to manage students from various backgrounds. This experience, and the classes paired with the field placement, has been some of the most beneficial of my educational career,” Herbers said.

Fellow teaching candidate Sam Wyss said, “Gonzaga-in-Florence’s teaching program has been one of the most humbling experiences in my 20 years of life. I was tossed into a new, rich, cultural world that has offered me lessons that I will take into my classroom and I feel will benefit me forever.” Sam’s unique experience included teaching a classroom full of Italian students how to “cheer” for Gonzaga. The other teachers gathered at the door of his class to see what his students were so excited about as the children shouted.

The opportunity to experience teaching in another culture provides invaluable perspectives that G-I-F students can carry over into their future teaching careers. “My heart filled with pride as I observed our candidates meet every challenge that they faced in a foreign environment,” said Dr. Nelson, “I know they will bring those skills back into their American classrooms.”

Like the teaching program, all of the programs available through G-I-F are more accessible to students thanks to donor support. And in celebrating its 50th anniversary, now is a great time to show your support for the G-I-F programs. To make a gift in support of G-I-F and help continue our commitment to global education, visit Also, register for the April G-I-F reunion in Florence at