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Atrium Health provides Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle teacher with educational experience of a lifetime

Monroe Middle Pic Connecting students to real-world experiences isn’t just a lofty goal for Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle (HSA at Monroe Middle) lead teacher Johanna Markiewitz. It’s what she strives to do every day in her health sciences classroom.

But last month, Markiewitz found new ways to integrate global experiences into her curriculum, courtesy of the experience of a lifetime: the Atrium Health International Medical Outreach program. The Atrium Health program, which provided Markiewitz with an educational trip to Guatemala, was the perfect addition to HSA at Monroe Middle and Atrium Health Union’s unique collaboration that exposes students to the clinical and operational aspects of healthcare.

“Through the medical outreach program, I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to tour different Atrium Health initiatives and see their impact in the country,” Markiewitz said, adding the idea for this opportunity came from Atrium Health Union President Michael Lutes. “Travel in general is extremely valuable for any educator, because the more you travel the more open your mind becomes. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m honored to bring those experiences back to our students.”

For seven days, Markiewitz had a packed schedule full of hands-on learning experiences.

On her first day in Guatemala, she observed an open heart surgery at UNICAR, the only institute in Central America dedicated to cardiology and cardiac surgery.

“It was the first surgery that I’ve ever observed or even scrubbed in for, so it was an amazing experience to talk to the staff and learn so much,” she said. “Our seventh grade medical investigative class studies the circulatory system. I could immediately make connections and think of ways to bring what I was learning back to our students.”

During the next few days, Markiewitz learned about Funsepa’s mission to improve education through technology. She visited schools where children who typically have no access to technology had the opportunity to work in computer labs during the school day.

“Before my trip, I had my students write short notes to the students in Guatemala. I took them with me to give to the students so they could also write short notes back,” she said. “I saw this as another opportunity for our students to make global connections with international schools and students.”

During the final days of her trip, Markiewitz visited the largest NICU hospital in Central America. There, she met medical residents and learned about public health problems facing Guatemalan families.

In fact, when one of the medical residents visited the Charlotte area after Markiewitz’s trip, they offered to speak to all of the health sciences classes at Monroe Middle.

“When the resident talked to our students -- I know it was something the students would never forget,” Markiewitz said. “Every student was absolutely engaged by what she was telling them and they had plenty of questions.”

Connections like those, she added, is the perfect example of why opportunities like these are so important for educators. Markiewitz also said knowing Atrium Health is so invested in and supportive of her gaining and bringing these experiences to classrooms makes her feel extremely valued.

Since returning from Guatemala, Markiewitz has been hard at work identifying ways to incorporate some of these experiences into her classroom.

Some of her plans include service projects to support Guatemalan mothers, fundraisers to support WiFi connections at a Guatemalan school and a PenPal program with another Guatemalan elementary school. Other plans include asking Guatemalan medical residents to “adopt a classroom” and share their medical school and cultural experiences with HSA at Monroe Middle students each week.

“Not every student is able to travel to other countries, so any way that I can bring what I’ve learned back to my students to help them make global connections is valuable,” she said. “You never know what will hook a student. These experiences may be the one thing that gets a student interested and motivated in school.”

Posted: June 26, 2019