Lehigh’s College of Education has established a partnership with the Innova Schools of Peru to help train teachers for their network of private schools that aims to elevate academic learning in the South American country and inspire K-12 students through the use of technology and self-discovery methods.
The partnership was formalized in late June. Gary Sasso, retiring dean of the College of Education, and Cheryl Matherly, vice president and vice provost for International Affairs, signed the Memorandum of Understanding with Innova’s director of teacher training, Andrea Portugal, present. The Memorandum lays the groundwork for the partnership.
"Our relationship with the Innova schools represents our commitment to both the future of Peru and our belief in the global necessity of education," Sasso said.
Brook Sawyer, associate professor in the teaching, learning, and technology program at Lehigh, said faculty from the College of Education will help Innova develop syllabi and plan several courses for a new undergraduate liberal arts college that is being established to train teachers. Among the proposals are courses in content area methods, teacher personal and professional identity, special education, diversity, family-school partnerships and instructional planning.
“We’re committed to research to practice,” said Sawyer, “and that’s what drew them to us.”
Once the curricula is approved by the Peru’s Ministry of Education, said Sawyer, the COE faculty will further co-develop the education courses with those university trainers in Peru hired to teach them. Sawyer is COE’s primary liaison in the partnership. Also being planned, she said, is for COE faculty to provide professional development for teachers already employed in the Innova Schools.
“Innova’s vision for high quality and affordable schools is compelling,” Matherly said, “and this partnership will make possible opportunities for Lehigh faculty and students to contribute expertise. We are excited to partner with schools that are leading innovation with expanding access to middle class and low income families.”
The Innova Schools network was created in 2011 by Carlos Rodriguez-Pastor, a Peruvian businessman who wanted to address the poor academic performance of students in his home country. The schools, which are being developed by InterCorp Group, a family of Peruvian businesses that include banks, retail stores, as well as schools, are priced for middle-class families and emphasize academic excellence through teacher-led, project-based digital learning. Rafael Dasso ’91, president and CEO of InterCorp-owned InkaFarma, introduced the Lehigh faculty to the leadership of the Innova Schools.
“We envision that this partnership marks the beginning of a long-lasting relationship between Lehigh University and Innova Schools that will enable a fruitful exchange of knowledge, perspectives and resources to rethink education and learning and strengthen our educational communities so that every child has access to powerful, meaningful, and innovative learning experiences,” Portugal said.
Sawyer said future collaborations could provide Lehigh graduate students with internships. “There can be some really powerful learning opportunities for our College of Education students as well,” she said.
In its launch year, Innova’s new education college hopes to train 150 teachers, and within 10 years, 1,500 teachers annually, Sawyer said.
College of Education faculty involved in the partnership also include Susan Woodhouse, associate professor of counseling psychology; Tom Hammond, associate dean and associate professor of teaching, learning and technology; and Craig Hochbein, assistant professor of educational leadership.