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Staff Member Meets With Peers in South Africa

Gail B. LandersAn early childhood educator at Pennsylvania College of Technology recently returned from a People to People Citizen Ambassador Program trip to South Africa.

Gail B. Landers, group leader at the college’s Children’s Learning Center, was invited by the president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children to join a delegation of about 50 early childhood educators that flew in October from Washington, D.C., to Johannesburg, South Africa, to interact with early educators in that country.

In South Africa, her travels stretched from the world financial center of Johannesburg to the mansions and “matchbox houses” of once-segregated Soweto, as well as to Cape Town’s majestic Table Mountain and, at its base, the remnants of District 6, from which 60,000 non-white inhabitants had been removed during apartheid.

“The goal of our early childhood delegation was to “˜deepen understanding of the political realities in the lives of children and families and to consider the power of early education professions to advance social change,'” Landers said.

People to People International was established in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to promote cultural understanding among ordinary citizens. The nonprofit contracts with People to People Ambassador Programs, an educational travel provider.

The group of travelers was composed of professionals from each corner of the United States and included teachers, mentors and program directors.

The group chose a local educational trust, called the Pebbles Project, as its priority cause. The Pebbles Project was established in 2004 to offer support to children with special educational needs, particularly those whose lives are affected by alcohol in some way, in the Western Cape of South Africa. Among the People to People visiting educators’ goals is to help institute a mobile library for families in the area.

Individually, Landers also hopes to return to the Western Cape to volunteer at a crèche or training center and to look into opportunities for a student exchange between the Penn College early childhood education major and the early childhood education major at the University of Pretoria.

Landers has been with the Children’s Learning Center at Penn College since it opened in 1994. Previously, she had teaching experience with second graders at the former Webster School in Williamsport, in the Lycoming Child Care Latchkey program and at the Little Lambs Preschool. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg State College (now Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania) and is a Pennsylvania certified elementary teacher.

The Children’s Learning Center provides high-quality, on-campus child care and early childhood education to children while their parents work or attend classes at Penn College. It also offers a working laboratory for students in the early childhood education major.

To learn more about early childhood education and other academic programs offered by the School of Integrated Studies at Penn College, call 570-327-4521 or visit online .

For general information about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail e-mail or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

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