Brian Burback wants to take his students beyond the textbook version of history and geography, onto the streets of India, the classrooms of China, the subways of Tokyo and the neighborhoods of Colombia.

So he’s traveled there, taught the students in those countries, worked with their teachers and experienced their cultures in an effort to bring a global perspective to his North Star High School classes.

“A lot of it is to bring in the perspective that it’s part of a bigger world. We’re not isolated,” said Burback, who teaches civics, geography and world history.

His most recent excursion was to Kolkata, India, this summer with a U.S. Department of State program called Teachers for Global Classrooms. He took an online course, then spent two weeks in India, and on Friday he went to Washington, D.C., with the 68 teachers in the program, where they were honored as part of World Teachers’ Day.

While in India, he worked with students –- telling them about Nebraska and his students here -- and he worked with teachers who are eager to learn from American educators, he said.

While American education is swinging toward more standardized testing and accountability, educators in countries such as China and India -- where high-stakes tests are legendary -- want to learn more student-centered teaching that educators in the United States are known for, he said.

Countries such as India and China traditionally have relied on rote memory and want to learn more about how to use group work and other strategies to teach collaboration, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, he said. Those educators believe their students will need such skills to compete in a global economy, he said.

The Indian students shared their thoughts about how globalization has affected their country, and he brought those perspectives back to North Star -- as well as pieces of Indian teen culture, to help his students see there are many ways to look at the world.

His students can communicate with the students Burback met in other countries, and he uses the 400-some photos he took to illustrate points he is trying to make in his lessons.

Sitting through history classes in China, Japan and India taught Burback how those countries view the same events in history differently, something he uses when he teaches those events in his classes.

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And he thinks the travels of a teacher who graduated from Northeast High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can help students realize seeing different cultures themselves is possible.

“I went to Northeast High School, have lived in Lincoln, and all of a sudden I’m on the Great Wall, in the subways in Tokyo,” he said. “It seems more accessible (to students).”

He also tells his students how their counterparts in the countries he’s visited are amazed at the choices American students have, because schools in those countries don’t have sports teams or marching bands or other activities.

“One of the things I try to share with them is that by the luck of the draw, by being born here, they have lots of opportunities others don’t have,” he said.

Reach Margaret Reist at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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