Teachers Share Personal Journeys

Teachers Share Personal Journeys
Dina ElBoghdady

MORE THAN A DOZEN GDS TEACHERS AND STAFF MEMBERS shared their personal journeys as first-generation immigrants with the third grade class, an assignment designed to remind students that immigrants are part of nearly every community, including their own.

The project is part of a year-long study of immigration and migration that starts with modern times before introducing historical milestones, such as the founding of Jamestown and Plymouth, immigrant arrivals at Ellis Island and Angel Island, and the Great Migration.

“We start the year this way because we want students to realize that immigration is a current and ongoing issue,” said Todd Carter, a third grade teacher.

Small groups of students interviewed individual teachers and staffers, who have since gained celebrity status among the kids. “The students really bonded with their interviewees,” said third grade teacher Foun Tang. Each group presented displays about their respective subjects at a grade-wide celebration and contributed to an international feast. Among the made-from-scratch specialties: “torn underwear.”

3rd Grade Immigration Project Celebration

Yi-Na with Ellie Wagner (back) and Hazel Saelinger


Chinese Teacher 

Birthplace: Kinmen, Taiwan

Yi-Na comes from a big family that lives in the small township of Jinning, where most people tend to walk, bike, or ride motor scooters to get around. Yi-Na moved to South Carolina when she was 28 to pursue a masters degree at Clemson University. She continues to celebrate Taiwanese holidays, such as the Dragon Boat Festival.



3rd Grade Immigration Project Celebration

Left to right: Gemma Schwartz, Luke Nussdorf, and Gaby Grossman with Felipe


8th Grade Dean & LMS School Dance Teacher 

Birthplace: Santiago, Chile 

One student surprised Felipe by making his favorite Chilean fried pastry, Calzones Rotos, which translates into “torn underwear.” The sweet winter treat “tasted like home,” said Felipe, who came to DC at age 25 to join the Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company. “Dance is a community-building art,” he said. “I told students that it’s a primal form of communication that breaks language barriers.”



3rd Grade Immigration Project Celebration

3rd Grade Immigration Project Celebration



Third Grade Teacher, Lower School Curriculum Coordinator 

Birthplace: Regensburg, Germany 

Charles felt upset, scared, and homesick when he left Germany as a five-year-old. He told students about leaving the pastures and farms of his hometown for the industrial Midwest. “My family settled in Cleveland, Ohio,” Charles said. “It was all concrete and grayness, a totally different world from the rural setting and small towns I was used to.”



Nancy Sierra


LMS Spanish Teacher 

Birthplace: Colombia

In Colombia, Nancy loved exploring the Colombian Andes, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and Cartagena’s beaches and landscapes. She left for the U.S. after completing her postgraduate studies in human rights, when she grew concerned about the safety of human rights activists. Conditions have since improved. “I did not leave my country because I wanted to be far away,” she said. “But I fell in love with this beautiful country.” 






Teachers Share Personal Journeys