The lights are off. A projector screen glows with a map of Berlin with a line dividing the former East and West sectors.
Shayne Dove, perched on a table near the screen, sports a neat, long beard and a graphic T-shirt. He speaks softly, guiding his students to consider the cultural differences between modern eastern and western Germany. He clicks to a slide of a photograph he took when he visited the city.
The New Beginnings High School social studies teacher wasn’t always a traveler. It wasn’t until Cedar Springs High School teacher Dave Stuart encouraged him to apply to the Transatlantic Outreach Program four years ago, when Dove began teaching at New Beginnings, that his journeysbegan.
Through various fellowships, he joins a group of educators during the summer as they explore institutions, businesses and education systems to bring perspective back to their classrooms.
Dove showed students pictures of Deutsche Bank in Berlin as an example of the financial district. He often uses personal experiences and even lectures he received while overseas to enhance his lesson plans.
“I want to generate interest and curiosity about things outside their small little bubble that they experience,” Dove said. “When I show them pictures and talk about people I meet and talk about experiences, it generates that interest.
“They’re so disconnected from Japan, you can’t really blame them for not thinking about it. But when I bring that to them, it at least creates that opportunity to make it more relevant, more real.”
Dove’s classes are conversational, which he said would work in any classroom. But at the alternative high school, with smaller class sizes, he said there is flexibility to try new methods of teaching and keep it casual.
Dove traveled to Rome during his first visit to Europe, and has visited The Boeing Company in Japan. Many of his trips also take him to American cities.
In Germany, he toured a high school whose student body ran a fully-functioning restaurant on campus. The school was also in the process of opening a hotel for its students to staff. While Germany’s education system is more focused on vocational training, he hopes to prioritize in his classes the skills of communication and critical thinking, which employers at companies like Boeing said are in demand.
“Super-important for me is I think the kids need to talk about things,” he said. “You can gain a lot from reading and seeing things, and I think we need to get them talking about things to process information and help it stick.”
Dove began teaching in the first place to answer a calling for helping people. Teaching at the alternative high school has given him that opportunity, he said.
“The biggest thing is I wanted to do something I felt was important, something I felt made a difference, was positive and helping people, which makes this position actually a good fit for me, helping provide opportunities that might not be there otherwise.”
This summer, Dove’s calendar is dominated by days on the road, including a visit to Boston to study colonial and Native American interactions, and to Wyoming to learn about conservation. The following summer, he hopes to visit South Africa.
“It all comes down to, I want to learn as much as I can,” Dove said of his travels. “That’s how I treat these trips. The exposure to different ways of thinking, different perspectives, being open to challenging your beliefs, is what I love.”