The visit “was like stepping into history,” Holder said. “There are ruins from the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantines and the Turks. “It was absolutely fascinating,” Holder said of ruins of the 2,000-year-old Temple of Aphrodite in western Turkey. “It was really remarkable to actually be there, see the ruins, the elaborate carvings on the structure.”
Teachers were selected from a pool of more than 300 applicants through the local World Affairs Councils, said Althea Georgantas, WACA program manager. Applicants had to be full-time teachers with at least three years’ experience. Priority was given to art and history teachers. Applicants were required to write a detailed essay on why they wanted to visit Turkey. They also participated in a teacher workshop on Turkey held in the spring before being accepted, Georgantas said.
The Republic of Turkey, in southeastern Europe and western Asia, has been home to numerous cultures that have left their mark on the mountainous country. Despite having a population of about 73 million people, Turkey is not widely studied in the United States, said Guler Koknar, executive director of the Turkish Cultural Foundation.
“Turkey receives almost no or passing reference in the American school system,” Koknar said. “What we hope the teachers take home . . . [is] that Turkey played a key role in history and is poised to play a key role in its region and the world today.”
The trip was funded through a grant from the Turkish Cultural Foundation, Koknar said.
Holder said he was warmly welcomed by the Turkish people. Some were curious about the United States and his work and wanted to have their pictures taken with him.
Laurel High School Principal Dwayne Jones said having instructors travel overseas is a great benefit to students.
“Sometimes, our kids, the only world they experience is Laurel or the greater D.C. metro area,” Jones said. “The more they become exposed to the wider world out there, the more marketable their skills become.” (By Jamie Anfenson-Comeau, Washington Post)