5 Ways Teachers Can Improve Racial Equity

One of the founding principles of TIEs is that teachers benefit by collaborating with educators from different backgrounds. We can learn about different histories/education systems, foster an appreciation for diversity, and better prepare ourselves to teach in today’s diverse US classrooms. However, TIEs recognizes that travelling abroad to co-teach is a privilege and an opportunity that not everyone can afford. Therefore, we are making it a priority to share resources/ideas that all US teachers can use right now to become better ambassadors of racial equity.

In response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and others, TIEs is calling out to teachers to recognize that we are in a position to affect positive change, and that we have a responsibility to take anti-racist action in our schools. Here are 5 things teachers can do to get started:

1. Diversify Your Bookshelves
This is perhaps the least that teachers should do. Look at the books in your classroom and the required readings in your curriculum. Are a diversity of voices represented, or does it reflect a mainstream, Euro-centric point of view? Do not deny your students the opportunity to hear the voices/stories of different groups of people, particularly marginalized groups.

2. Use Critical Pedagogy
It is not enough to simply have books in your classroom that tell the stories of marginalized groups, we must plan lessons/discussions around these materials. In particular, use critical pedagogy: “a teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination” (k12academics.com). Be honest about history, and provide safe, structured opportunities for students to be critical of oppression. Look up the work of Paulo Friere, the founder of critical pedagogy.

3. Analyze Your School’s Recruiting Practices
Almost 80 percent of public school teachers are white. We need to recognize that this is a shortcoming of our field. It is imperative that staff demographics reflect student demographics, and that students have role models of color. Talk to your admin about this. Is your school partnering with any alternative licensure programs or attending any virtual job fairs? These practices can help reach a more diverse candidate pool. Look here for more ideas about recruiting diverse educator talent.

4. Start an Equity Committee
Equity work is not a box that can be checked off and considered “done”. True equity work becomes a part of a school’s culture. Form an equity committee at your school to make sure that this work is ongoing. This committee should analyze your school’s curriculum, spark critical discussions about our unconscious biases, throw schoolwide events to celebrate diversity, and provide professional development on equity. Check out the work of Sonia Nieto, a leading voice on equity in education, for more ideas.

5. Use Culturally Responsive Teaching
Do not say “I’m color-blind” or “I see all my students the same.” This mentality denies that students bring their unique racial and cultural experiences to the classroom, and that these experiences influence the way they learn. Instead, use Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): an approach that uses students’ backgrounds as an important source of their learning. Learn the individual learning preferences of your students, and differentiate your instruction to reach kids in different ways. Find ways to bring their cultural backgrounds into the classroom. Look here for more ideas on CRT.

As teachers, we must remember this quote by Angela Davis:

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

Being anti-racist means taking action. The above list are just a few of the ways that educators can start taking action today. What other ideas do you have? Join the conversation here or on our social media pages.

Thanks for reading.

-Tim Kobus, Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers


Right now TIEs is running a fundraiser to continue our intercultural co-teaching programs, but how can you know if your money is being put to good use? Every year, TIEs conducts exit interviews with our participating teachers. Based on these interviews, we’ve been able to assess our top 5 impacts since we started our Nepal program in 2016:


In 2017, American participant Monica introduced a teaching method in Nepal that became the new hot new thing: the Station Method. Divide the class into multiple groups and give each group a different task (i.e. writing, drawing, speaking, etc.). The groups rotate from one station to the next. It’s a great way to engage multiple learning styles. In a 2018 interview, Nepali teacher Subhadra said she still used this method every day, and that she even taught it to other teachers at the school.


In 2018, our partner school wanted to upgrade their English language curriculum, so TIEs assembled a team of Nepali and American educators to meet regularly for 2 weeks. We pulled items from Nepal’s Department of Education and the Common Core Standards from the USA. The end result: a mash-up that combines the best of both worlds. It’s a unique list of standards for grades K-8 that our partner school can use to guide it’s English language program. The Nepali school principal, Abha, said that the school would continue this work by doing the same thing with their other subjects.


In 2017, American teacher Amy and Nepali principal Abha collaborated on a project called “Observe Me”. The idea was to foster an open-door culture at the school. Teachers visited each other’s classrooms during their off periods, observed each other teaching, and learned about each other’s methods. In 2018, Abha said that they still used this policy at the school: 4 times a year, each teacher has an opportunity to observe another teacher (often someone who teaches a different subject) to gain new methods and perspectives.


Remember these from when you were in school? Before a lesson, you write what you know (K) and what you want to know (W) about the topic. After the lesson, you write what you learned (L). TIEs introduced this method to our partner school in a 2017 workshop. In our 2018 interviews, multiple Nepali teachers reported still using these. One teacher, Teena, said if you visit her class, you can see her KWL chart on the wall!


Teachers around the world complain that they don’t get enough time to plan their lessons. In 2018, TIEs introduced a method of planning in which you write out an entire week of lessons at one time. The Nepali staff had been writing lesson plans on a daily basis, which can be very time-consuming. In our 2018 interviews, multiple Nepali teachers reported that they would switch to the week-long planning method.

We’re excited to see what new ideas our TIEs participants will come up next, but we need your help! Visit StartSomeGood.com/ties2019 between now and June 12th to support our 2019 fundraising campaign. Your support enables us to continue the work that we do.

Thanks for being a part of the TIEs community!

Teacher Profiles – Ditta

Meet Ditta Magar, a teacher/coordinator from Kathmandu, Nepal, participating in the 2017 TIEs program.

Here’s a little about her:

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching for 9 years- the first 2 years were in kindergarten, then after that I became a coordinator for classes nursery to 2nd

Why do you teach?

I love children. It makes me happy to spend time with them. Also, I am studying child development at the Masters level.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

I love watching dramas, and I am involved in acting. I am also a Sunday School coordinator.

Where have you traveled before? Is travel important to you?

I have traveled to Pokhara in Nepal, and India outside of Nepal. Travel can refresh us and it gives us entertainment.

What are you strengths as a teacher?

I give children a loving and caring environment. This is my first priority for the students. After that, I can teach them, like a friend. I can give them motivation and counseling.

What do you believe is the biggest benefit of the TIEs program?

We can know different countries’ teachers- their culture and their teaching style. We can share our own feelings with them. At first, they are new faces for us, but later, we are like a family.

What do you hope to learn from your partner teacher?

I want to learn to how to make low-cost materials. And I want to know my partner’s teaching style.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Why?

A fish. If I have any trouble in my mind, I love to see aquariums. The fish make me happy. So if I were a fish, I think I could make other people happy.

Subscribe to our blog for more profiles our our 2017 program participants, as well as stories of the projects we’re working here in Nepal!

Teacher Profiles – Devi

Meet Devi Karki, a dance/extracurricular activities teacher from Kathmandu, Nepal. She’s participating in TIEs’ 2017 summer cultural exchange program.

Let’s learn a little about her!

How long have you been teaching? What grades/subjects?

I’ve been teaching for 14 years. I’m a dance teacher, my specialties are Nepali folk cultural dance and classical dance. I also do ECA (Extra-Curricular Activities), like games, literature, and organizing school programs. In the past, I have taught English, Math, Computers, and Science.

Why do you teach?

I have wanted to be a teacher since my childhood. I want to educate Nepali children. Other countries think that Nepal is not well-educated or developed, and I want to develop my country through education.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

I like to do interior design, like rooms and gardens. I go on Youtube to research arts and crafts and try to get knowledge from that and make my own creations. I read books and listen to music. I like to visit new places.

Where have you traveled before? Is travel important to you?

I have traveled all over Nepal, but I’m only a domestic tourist, not international. In the future, I plan to visit Spain, America, Australia, and India. In true travel, we can get knowledge from different environments, places, people, and cultures.

What are your strengths as a teacher?

My strength is that I can understand my students. They can be friendly with me and share everything. I try to help them with their problems.

What do you believe is the biggest benefit of the TIEs program?

We can exchange our teaching styles. Co-teaching is positive because we get different knowledge and we can integrate that knowledge into our school.

What do you hope to learn in from your partner teacher?

I want to learn about how to make a plan for Extra-Curricular Activities (ECA). In Nepal, we have lesson plans for academic subjects, but not ECA. I think academic subjects can be integrated into ECA, and that will make students understand these subjects better.

If you were an animal, what would you be? Why?

I would like to be a bird. Birds can fly all over and I could be a positive messenger for the whole world. The positive message would be that we are all people and we should respect our elders because they are our history and we can learn different things from them.

Stay tuned to the TIEs blog for more profiles of our Nepali and American teacher participants!

Differentiating Instruction Across Different Nations

When you walk into Ditta and Monica’s co-taught English classroom in Lalitpur, Nepal, there’s a lot going on. Ditta, a K-2 teacher from Nepal, is playing a flashcard game with a small group of students. Monica, a visiting teacher from the U.S., is creating booklets with another group. Three more groups of students are independently working on tasks including worksheets and illustrations. It might seem like these groups of students are all learning different things, but each activity is a different way for students to practice their prepositions of place (i.e. “in”, “on”, “under”).

Ditta and Monica have established a classroom environment that appeals to the diverse learning preferences of their students.

This method of differentiating instruction, known as “station” teaching, is very common in U.S. classrooms, but was new to some of the Nepali teachers. Monica introduced this method during the 2017 TIEs summer program, and she and Ditta co-planned what each individual station activity would be. Ditta coordinates grades Kindergarten through 2nd, and she is excited to share this method with other teachers on her team. Ditta and Monica will be presenting this method to the entire staff in an upcoming professional development workshop.

But Ditta isn’t the only one learning new things through the TIEs program – Monica has gained some insight as well. English is the second language of these Nepali students, and Monica sees the emphasis that the Nepali teachers place on learning new vocabulary. “In the US, we often assume that kids have the vocabulary,” Monica says. “This experience has made me more cognizant of the importance of front-loading vocabulary.” Monica is toying with the idea of a vocabulary station when she returns to her regular school in the U.S., where approximately 20 percent of the students are English language learners.

Station-teaching is just one of the many cross-cultural collaborations going on in TIEs’ 2017 summer program. See more of our exciting projects by subscribing to our blog and following us on Facebook and Instagram!

Teacher Profiles – Amy

Meet Amy Okimoto, a 3rd grade teacher from the USA! This summer, she’s partnering with Nepali teachers and administrators to exchange ideas about education.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching for 21 years, including grades K-8, and gifted & talented. I currently teach 3rd grade in Aurora, Colorado.

Why do you teach?

I teach to positively impact the future and build children up by helping them achieve their potential.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

Travel, cook, exercise, cheer on the Broncos, and spend time with friends and family.

Where have you traveled? Is travel important to you?

Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines. Travel not only helps you learn about other people and places, but also provides the opportunity to learn about oneself.

What are your strengths as a teacher?

I believe my strength is my ability to nurture students’ spirit and innate curiosity.

What do you believe is the biggest benefit of the TIEs program?

The collaborative effort between the US and Nepali teachers allows the Bhassara students to benefit from multiple perspectives and a wide range of expertise.

What do you hope to learn from your partner teachers?

I hope to learn more about the Pariyatti class, the moral education that is taught as part of the curriculum here at Bhassara. They have 5 “Universal Goodnesses” that they emphasize, and I want to learn about how these influence students’ relationships with each other and with their teachers.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I’d be a dolphin. They’re free, intelligent, connected to others, and I love the ocean!

Stay tuned to the TIEs blog for more profiles of our Nepali and American teacher participants!

Teacher Profiles – Anil

Meet Anil, one of the teachers participating in TIEs’ 2017 summer program from Lalitpur, Nepal. Let’s learn a little about him.

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching for 6 years, Science and Mathematics in grades 6-10.

Why do you teach?

To share knowledge, and help students develop positive attitudes towards society.

What do you like to do when you’re not teaching?

Meditation, listening to soft music, reading books related to spiritual and scientific knowledge.

Where have you travelled before? Is travel important to you?

I have travelled to India. Travel is important to broaden our minds and develop our attitudes.

What are you strengths as a teacher?

I am friendly with students and counsel them. I like to make the subject matter clear.

What do you believe is the biggest benefit of the TIEs program?

We can learn different methods of teaching, such as methods of co-teaching. And we can share ideas with teachers of different cultures.

What do you hope to learn in from your partner teacher?

My goal is to learn about classroom management and time management, and using new methods to involve the children.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

Elephant, it’s calm and big.

Stay tuned to the TIEs blog for more profiles of our Nepali and American teacher participants!

Our 2nd Annual TIEs Program Is Here!

For the next 3 weeks, American and Nepali teachers will be connecting and collaborating through the TIEs Summer Program in Patan, Nepal. TIEs stands for “Two-way Intercultural Exchanges.”

Our goal is to develop better teachers by learning from those who are different from us.

Each party, the Americans and Nepalis, will be sharing their unique strengths as educators though co-teaching, co-planning, and presenting professional development workshops. By working side-by-side, we also aim for our participants to develop their cross-cultural communication, an essential skill in today’s increasingly globalized world.

Thanks to the generous people who supported TIEs’ crowdfunding campaign in 2015, we received enough funding to run our summer program for the second year in a row. Last year, in our inaugural program, participants gained new ideas about using low-cost materials, building a positive school climate, and conducting project-based learning. We’re excited to see what new insight this year’s participants find!

In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting bios of each of our participating Nepali and American teachers, as well as blog posts to share the collaborative projects they’ll be working on. Follow the story of the TIEs’ teachers this summer by subscribing to our blog and following us on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for being a part of TIEs’ journey!

-Tim Kobus, Founder/Director, TIEs with Teachers

A Trust Fall In Nepal

Teachers in the US generally don’t step outside our classrooms, even though it would be nice to take an occasional bathroom break, grab some materials, or have a quick one-to-one with a student in the hall. Without the watchful eye of the teacher, we fear that our classrooms would devolve into chaos. But at Bhassara School in Nepal, the teachers feel confident leaving the students to manage themselves if need be – a class captain monitors the group while students quietly work on their exercises. According to Erica, an American teacher visiting Bhassara through the TIEs program, “The amount of trust that the staff puts in the students is really special.”

Erica says she has been very impressed by the autonomy that students have here. The morning assemblies are student-led. The kids are part of a committee to plan and run school events. In her view, these things create a school-wide culture of trust and leadership.

In the US, it can be scary for us to give students this kind of independence. But Erica sees how it benefits students: “They rise to the challenge and I think that it allows a lot of character strengths to develop: leadership skills, event-planning, the ability to collaborate with a committee, critical thinking skills.”

Erica is excited to bring this concept to her own classes in the U.S., saying “I definitely want to carry with me the idea of taking a deep breath, letting go of some of that control, and trusting that the students can do incredible things on their own.”

Perhaps when it comes to micro-managing our students, we should consider the words of the movie Frozen, and “Let It Go.”

Follow our blog to hear about more lessons learned abroad in the TIEs summer program!


Written by Timothy Kobus, Founder/Director – TIEs with Teachers

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!


Finding Inspiration in a Foreign Nation

“Thank you miss for teaching us!”

Students at Bhassara School in Laltipur, Nepal, stand and say this in unison at the end of every class period. According to Amy, an American teacher visiting Bhassara though the TIEs program, the students’ joy of learning here is “undeniable.” She sees it in the way the students greet the teachers with hugs and enthusiasm, in the respect they show in the classroom, and in the gentleness with which the older students interact with the younger ones.

While much of this respect for learning may be culturally-rooted, Bhassara has certainly put things in place to foster such a positive learning environment: they begin mornings with student-led assemblies, their curriculum features a character education course, and they have a schoolwide meditation session every Friday to get students calm and ready to learn.

Can you imagine how good it would feel to teach in this kind of setting? For Amy, a teacher with 20 years experience, it is a source of renewed motivation: “I feel like the Nepali students show more respect, which in turn makes me feel very motivated to increase their engagement. It makes me want to work harder for them.”

In the US, a lot of teachers only dream of having a class like this. But perhaps the lessons learned here can be applied to US classrooms. “Maybe at home I need to re-invent myself,” Amy says. She is excited to try some of the same methods that Bhassara uses for building community in her own classroom.

Amy has found motivation and inspiration abroad. What would you find? TIEs would like to invite any teachers reading this to spend a summer visiting a foreign school. It just might recharge your teacher batteries!

Written by Timothy Kobus, Founder/Director – TIEs with Teachers

Like us on Facebook!

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

Get updates sent directly to your inbox.