After 36 years, Karen Seely is still using what she learned abroad at home.
Karen Seely graduated from BYU with a bachelor's of science in elementary education through the McKay School in 1977. While at BYU, Seely travelled to Europe with a study abroad program, having experiences similar to those of students who currently participate in the London Study Abroad. She attended many plays and concerts, visited museums and historical locations, and took humanities courses.
During her study abroad she also visited places such as Paris, Madrid, and Salzburg. While in Wales, she visited some elementary schools. “I learned a great deal while there,” Seely said. “I gathered ideas from there to help me in my teaching here.”
From gathering ideas abroad, she saw the importance placed on music and physical education programs, which have been losing interest in the United States. She thought, “We could work on those better here in our country.” Some ideas that she gathered she implemented directly into her own elementary classes. “I liked the idea of parents volunteering in the classroom, so I used it in my classroom,” Seely said. “Plus, the students abroad had the opportunity to work at their own pace, and I’ve used that in my classroom too.”
Seely has parents come into the classroom and listen to the students read. She also allows the students to read on their own level. From using methods like these, Seely said her “students love to read and get very involved in the Accelerated Reading program.” For Seely, it is a joy to see her students improve. “I get so excited when my students increase their reading skills,” Seely said. “And I find it amazing to see what my second graders were reading 34 years ago compared to what my second graders are reading today.”
By incorporating the techniques she learned abroad, like involving parents and allowing students to work at their own pace, Seely is fulfilling the Kennedy Center’s maxim to “expand your world.” Integrating knowledge from abroad is a common goal for the 2,000+ BYU students who travel on international study programs each year.
Although Seely’s experience in London taught her some important lessons to incorporate into her classroom, she has continued to learn while teaching. “I think teaching has taught me patience and a better understanding of children from all cultures,” Seely said. “I think it has helped me be a better mother, but I guess you might have to ask my children if that is true or not.”
Seely and her husband, Gordon Wade Seely, live in Idaho and have four children, who are all BYU graduates. Since retirement in 2012, Seely is spending more time with her 14 grandchildren and is volunteering at the school where she previously taught.
February 4, 2013