2015 Astor Fellows Reflect on Special Education in Buenos Aires

This summer, 14 New York City public school teachers headed south for Buenos Aires as Astor International Travel Fellows.

The Astor International Travel Fellowship for New York City Teachers, made possible through a gift from philanthropist Brooke Astor, celebrates New York City public school teachers by awarding them a fellowship to explore intercultural dimensions of teaching and learning. The experience aims to broaden teachers’ horizons and inspire them with ideas for classroom innovation through an international experience centered on a specific academic subject.

Over 10 days in July, the 2015 Astor Fellows traveled through Buenos Aires with Mark Alter, professor of educational psychology, and doctoral student Sergio Saldivia to explore the city’s approach to special education. Between visits to schools of all levels, the National Rehabilitation Service, and the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, the Astor Fellows also immersed themselves in the local culture, taking tango lessons and eating the “best empanadas in the world” (according to Alter).

The fellows were hoping to gain a wide range of knowledge from their trip: how local policy affects special education, Buenos Aires’ approach to standardized testing for students with special needs, socioeconomic challenges of this student population, and simply being more connected with teachers and students outside of a New York City borough.

Last Friday, the Fellows gathered at NYU to share what they gleaned from their time in Buenos Aires, and how these experiences are shaping their teaching this school year.

“The teachers represented the city, represented teachers, represented the profession — I was like a proud father,” said Alter of the Astor Fellows, who came from schools in Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan.

“The true test of a teacher is how they interact with kids,” Alter added, noting how the Astor Fellows really engaged with the students they visited.

Next summer, a new group of Astor Fellows will travel to Australia to explore arts education “down under.” For more information, visit the Astor Fellows website.