The Storypal Team is global; we are Korean, Nigerien, Cambodian, and Pakistani-American. We are co-workers and collaborators, but primarily, we are friends. Our friendship is what drives us to create a platform for global connections.
Out of all of us, Musa’s life has been most impacted by his global associations. He is the epitome of a global citizen. He has friends from all over the world. He is a board member on several international organizations in Korea and meets with ambassadors frequently. Musa moved from Niger to Busan nine years ago and met his best friend, Grace shortly after that. This past May, Grace invited Musa to travel to Iloilo, Cebu, and Manila.
Grace loves to show off her country, and she wanted Musa to come with her to a fiesta in her hometown.
“If I had not met Grace, I don’t think my visit to the Philippines would have been this great.” He said sharing pictures with the team.
We asked if it was hard making friends in the Philipines.
“I was pleasantly surprised at how I was welcomed and integrated into the Filipino Society. I didn’t have any trouble making friends. Everyone was kind to me. I truly understood why Filipinos are known as ‘The Smiling People.’ Everybody smiles in the Philippines irrespective of the situation, and that was the most touching point for me.” Musa replied smirking at us.
Musa took the time to explain what fiestas were to us. Fiestas in the Philippines can be religious and regionally based. They include something called a peryas. Peryas are similar to fairs. The townspeople set up temporary amusement parks within the city.
We asked Musa, what was the best part of the fiesta.
“The best part was the bonding between family members, neighbors and of course the food!” Musa chuckled.
Karen is a teacher that the Storypal Team met this past year. She was teaching 7th grade Honor English Language Arts.
What motivated you to look for a pen pal exchange?
I fell in love with a great book called “I’ll Always Write Back to You: How one letter changed two worlds” by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch. It is about a young girl from Pennsylvania who picked a pen pal from Zimbabwe when she was in 3rd grade. This book is a story of their letters, over many years, and how their friendship grew and changed both of their lives and their family’s lives forever.
I had my 7th grade Honor’s and Gifted English students read this book, and they enjoyed it as much as I did. It made them yearn for a pen pal from another land. Storypal was an excellent way for me to help them find that connection with students from a different part of the world.
What are some of your teaching philosophies?
I have been teaching for more than 20 years. I have a degree to teach from Kindergarten to 8th grade as well as extra teaching degrees to teach a special education class or even honors or gifted class.
I believe that my role as their teacher is not only to teach them how to write and to expose them to some very rewarding and thought to provoke books, but I really want to help them become more aware of other people and various parts of the world beyond themselves so they can begin to grow as a person.
There is another great children’s book by Dr. Seuss called “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day.” I love this book because it sums up how I want my classroom to be – a beautiful place to question, explore and examine literature, and the world beyond our doors and to have my students figure out where they see themselves. I also love to be creative and to challenge my student’s in many ways.
Do you think lifelong friendships are possible?
Yes, I absolutely believe that lifelong friends are possible. We can meet them in the most unique ways. It is those people we meet who share the same passions we do or even those who may seem so very different than ourselves that they inspire us to be better or help us define what is essential in our lives. I have a very good friend named Jenny, who my daughter helped me find as a friend.
When my daughter, Jessica, was 4 years old I took her to a children’s book story time. She went up to Jenny and her daughter and insisted that they have lunch with us. We had never met Jenny or her daughter before that day, but we all decided to have lunch together. Jenny is still my friend today – 13 years later and even after she moved away from Ohio to Texas. I get to see Jenny next month, and I can’t wait!.
I also have loved getting to know Sumbal from Storypal. From the first time we spoke, it was an easy conversation, and I really admire her passion for connecting students from around the world. Lots of people talk about making a difference in this world, but very few people actually do something about it! Sumbal and her team are doing something about it.
Jack shared this poem with us.
Olivia shared this poem with us.
This poem was highlighted by Ellen. She is the one in white.
Audrey recommended this poem. She is the one in yellow.
This poem was shared by Mark. Mark is sitting in the middle.