A Global Perspective

bartol-webCierra Bartol-Byers has always envisioned making a difference in the lives of others. This passion for service, coupled with academic drive, led her down the path of becoming an educator.

Cierra began her studies in education at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point in 2011. It was this same year that she first learned about Education in Namibia, an immersive four-week study abroad program at the School for the Visually Impaired in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek. Cierra was captivated by the program’s mission and aspired to one day be a part of it.

Fast forward four years later to May 2015, and Cierra was boarding a plane to Namibia for the summer— thanks in part to a study abroad grant from Phi Kappa Phi. Cierra had qualified and was accepted into the program as a final-year elementary education student.

“For me, Education in Namibia was an opportunity to grow as a special education educator. As a future teacher, I feel it is important to have as much experience with inclusivity in the classroom as possible.”

Upon arriving at the school, Cierra instantly knew she was in for a life-changing experience. “When you arrive, you fall in love with the kids. Your heart breaks into many pieces that day, and every day that follows a piece of you is left behind,” she said.

bartol-web-2She also quickly realized that the school’s learning conditions were lacking and many necessary tools and resources were unavailable. In addition to designing lessons that would accommodate the special needs of the students, Cierra had to compensate for the impoverished learning conditions.

But she wasn’t discouraged. 

Four days a week, Cierra worked with students ranging from age 5 to 21 with a variety of visual impairments. She successfully designed and implemented learning methods tailored to each student.

“I incorporated hands-on learning during science, games during mathematics and read-alouds from high-interest books,” she explained. “The most important lesson I took away from this experience is that all students can be motivated to learn depending on how you engage them.”

Cierra credits both the experience and students she met in Namibia for her growth as an educator. “As educators, children touch our lives as much as we touch their lives,” she said. “I learned techniques to address the needs of diverse learners and will be able to implement these techniques with future students.”

After her Namibia experience, Cierra taught as a student-teacher in New Zealand for 11 weeks and in Baraboo, Wisc., for 14 weeks before she graduated from UW–Stevens Point with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

As she embarks on the next chapter in her life, one thing is certain: She continues to strive to be the best educator she can be. 
“I am committed to making a difference in every student’s education.”

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi