Local teacher receives award for international work
by Beckye Randall
The World Affairs Council recently announced that Ryan Hauck, a social sciences teacher at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, was awarded the World Educator Award for 2007-2008. The award is given to outstanding teachers who demonstrate leadership in connecting their students to the world.
Hauck teaches international politics and anthropology to his students, mostly seniors at M-PHS. He also leads an advanced placement (AP) class in comparative politics, in which students learn about government structures in six different countries around the world. One of those countries is Nigeria.
Nearly two years ago, Hauck visited Nigeria with a group from the World Affairs Council. The mission on that trip was to help establish a library in the village of Oporoza, a tiny community subsisting on the edge of the Niger Delta. Each traveler brought books, crammed into suitcases and boxes, to fill the shelves in the community library.
Hauck was touched by the conditions he encountered in Oporoza. Even though the village sits on top of one of the world’s richest oil deposits, money from that oil production rarely finds its way back to the people. The Americans quickly discovered the village had no running water and no electricity. Oil exploration and drilling operations had damaged the area’s ecosystem, devastating the village’s traditional fishing harvests.
Nigeria’s population is made up of over 250 ethnic tribes, each one with its own native language and customs. War between the tribes is common, so the American team set out to create resources in several villages, like the library, that could be shared communally.
“The plan is to help bring conflict resolution to warring tribes,” explained Hauck, “and promote the use of community resources among the different ethnic groups.”
When the educator returned to his Marysville classroom, he brought stories and images of Nigeria back with him. His students here at home were inspired by the desperate need of the villagers and a “sister school” relationship was formed.
Following a school-wide assembly at which Hauck spoke, M-PHS students raised nearly $2,500 to help pay for scholarships for village students. Gift boxes filled with soccer balls, cleats, toys, clothes and books have been shipped off to Oporoza. One student even donated a wheelchair for a young Nigerian boy afflicted with polio.
Hauck’s passion is contagious, and it helps encourage his students to “think about the global community, and find solutions for communities that are less fortunate than ours.”
“Africa gets marginalized,” he continued. “It’s hard to understand the complexity of a nation like Nigeria. But once you look at the faces, you begin to understand.”
Since that first visit, Hauck has returned to Nigeria three more times, twice as an individual traveler. Getting in and out of the country can be “daunting,” partly because of the history of corruption among officials and partly due to the language barrier.
In August of 2006 he spent a month in Nigeria as part of a Seattle film crew producing a documentary entitled “Sweet Crude” (www.sweetcrudemovie.com). His other visits, traveling independently, occurred during spring break 2006 and over Christmas that same year.
Back home, Hauck shares his travel adventures with his students and encourages them to be aware of global interconnection. Most of all, he hopes to empower them to act as citizen diplomats, understanding the responsibilities of freedom and making the most of opportunities they’ve been afforded.
“It’s a powerful experience for students to recognize they can make a difference in the world.”