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Teacher Workshop Addresses the Migration Crisis in Europe and its Eastern Neighbors

Global studies

September 2, 2015

On August 12, the Ellison Center (REECAS) in collaboration with the Center for West European Studies (CWES), the European Union Center (EUC), and the Center for Global Studies (CGS) hosted a teacher workshop which included presentations from local and visiting scholars on the subject of migration in Europe. Educators from around the Pacific Northwest and beyond convened at the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies for a day of presentations, discussions, curriculum development, and light refreshments.


A rare thunderstorm in Seattle welcomed attendees to the 2015 Teacher Workshop on the EU and its Eastern Neighbors to the University of Washington on August 12. Sixteen teachers from middle schools, high schools, and community colleges, covering subjects from history and Russian language to AP human geography and social studies, attended the day-long event hosted at the Jackson School of International Studies.

Community of Teachers

Some teachers traveled from as far away as Idaho, Oregon, Mississippi and Minnesota. Brett Mayfield, AP human geography teacher at Madison Central High School in Mississippi, found the workshop through a Facebook group for teachers sharing professional development opportunities.

Marcelle Barrett (foreground) and Brett Mayfield (background) traveled from Idaho and Mississippi respectively to attend the teacher workshop on Migration and Multiculturalism in Europe.

Marcelle Barrett (foreground) and Brett Mayfield (background) traveled from Idaho and Mississippi respectively to attend the teacher workshop on Migration and Multiculturalism in Europe.

“I was drawn to [the workshop] because of the reputation of UW and the Jackson School and the subject matter (particularly migration),” Mayfield said. “It’s difficult to find quality learning opportunities on subjects like migration and multiculturalism.”

Shannon McLean, a social studies teacher from Shakopee High School in Minnesota, had been to Seattle before, but not to the UW campus. She appreciated the chance to speak with colleagues from across the country.

“It is always valuable to spend time with other educators, especially from around the country, because it’s clear the triumphs and challenges that I experience in Minnesota are shared by teachers in many other subject areas and geographic regions,” McLean said.

Presented by the Ellison Center, CWES, EUC, CGS, and hosted by the Jackson School, this workshop featured talks by experts in immigration and multiculturalism throughout Europe.

Case Study: Greece

Taso Lagos, Program Director of the Greece Study Abroad Program, Hellenic Studies, joined by teleconference from Greece where he led a study abroad trip with UW students this summer conducing research on undocumented migration.

The workshop was structured to include several case studies and zoom in on a particular country or region’s response to the European migration crisis. Lagos’ lecture was one of those case studies and it appealed to McLean.

“International case studies, like we experienced on Greece, will be incredibly useful in comparing what we consider ‘American issues’ like immigration across boundaries,” she said. “Having students investigate similarities and differences in case studies will be helpful in illuminating international crises, and ways that they can be dealt with.”

An Overview of the European Migration Crisis

Minnesota high school social studies teacher Shannon McLean volunteer to write on the poster paper during one of David Fenner's interactive brainstorm exercises.

Minnesota high school social studies teacher Shannon McLean volunteered to write on the poster paper during one of David Fenner’s interactive brainstorm exercises.

Jackson School affiliate faculty member David Fenner presented a broad overview of the European migration crisis. This session was interactive, engaging and popular with many of the teachers at the workshop. Fenner asked them to brainstorm the “push and pull factors” of immigration – to deliberately think about what forces people to leave their home country and what draws them to a specific destination.

“I enjoyed David Fenner and the central questions he asked that drove his conversation,” McLean said. “I plan on using those with my students in the first several weeks of class, to help personalize the domestic and international issues that history classes deal with, and again at the end of the year, to make comparisons between historical events and current events.”

Immigration and Assimilation in Western Europe

John Stafford, a full-time substitute teacher with Seattle Public Schools who is certified in history, social studies and economics and is working on his master’s degree in history, comes to many teacher workshops at the Jackson School. Stafford was excited to see a topic as “complex and multi-faceted” as migration on the schedule for this summer’s event.

“Steve Pfaff offered a number of insightful observations regarding different approaches to integrating migrants into society,” Stafford said. “He juxtaposed the concept of ‘Muslim Europeans’ with that of ‘Muslims in Europe,’ for example.”

Pfaff, a UW sociology professor, focused his lecture on Western Europe’s role on the issue.

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You can listen to Professor Pfaff’s talk here:

iTunes     Soundcloud

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Sociology professor Steve Pfaff gave an insightful lecture on immigration and assimilation in Western Europe.

Sociology professor Steve Pfaff gave an insightful lecture on immigration and assimilation in Western Europe.

Spotlight on Central and Eastern Europe’s Role

A panel discussion on Central and Eastern Europe’s response to the crisis was presented by Arista Cirtautas, Jackson School visiting lecturer, and Teresa Indelak Davis, Honorary Consul of Poland.

“I was drawn [to the workshop] by the opportunity to participate in a timely discussion on European migration and offer a perspective from a Central European point of view,” Indelak Davis said. “I appreciate being able to share with participants some historical and current information about Poland as it relates to emigration and immigration debate. As I’m closely following media and policy discussions in the EU, I hope that with an ongoing cooperation and open-minded approach, a humanitarian solution can be found soon.”

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You can listen to Professor Cirtautas and Consul Indelak Davis’ talk here:

iTunes     Soundcloud

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Case Study: Russia

In the last presentation of the packed day-long workshop, sociology Ph.D. student Michelle O’Brien talked about migration into Russia.

“Ms. O’Brien gave a wonderful lecture on migration between Central Asia and Russia, an area of the world that gets little attention elsewhere,” said Mayfield.

Many of the attending teachers were drawn to the workshop because of timely topic that has been dominating the news cycle this summer. To some, the lectures had an especially high value for personal enrichment. Among them was Marcelle Barrett, a seventh grade science and art teacher at Kellogg Middle School in Idaho.

“Two years ago I was lucky enough to visit Europe and travel through the Baltic all the way to St. Petersburg, Russia” Barrett said. “I’ve always been interested in European history and culture, and am 100 percent certain I will visit again, so I guess ‘personal interest’ drew me more than a professional one. But there is a quote I like that goes something like this, ‘If you know more than you teach (subjects), you’ll teach more than you know.”

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You can listen to Ph.D. student Michelle O’Brien’s talk here:

iTunes     Soundcloud

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Breaking Down a Complex Issue for the Classroom

Jackson School visiting lecturer Arista Cirtautas answered teachers' questions after the panel on Eastern and Central Europe's response to the migration crisis.

Jackson School visiting lecturer Arista Cirtautas answered teachers’ questions after the panel on Eastern and Central Europe’s response to the migration crisis.

To help bridge the connection between the timely, interesting lectures on migration and the teachers’ classrooms, Tina Gourd, a curriculum and instruction consultant from UW, held two sessions during the workshop to kick-off lesson planning. Gourd also wrote a curriculum-geared packet of immigration-related resources assembled by sponsoring Centers and some of the day’s presenters.

It was easy for Mayfield to make the connection from the workshop materials to his students.

“I’m beginning a unit on migration next week and looking forward to having concrete examples of push/pull factors and the economic conditions that often shape migration,” he said. “I’ll be teaching a unit of global governance later in the year and the lecture on EU policies will be very useful in that lesson.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for Mayfield and several other workshop attendees, however, were the context, insights, and multiple angles on the issue that brought the migration crisis into life beyond the headlines.

“Migration is a complex and highly emotional topic, and there is therefore a lot of value to exploring it in a more systematic and dispassionate manner,” Stafford said. “The workshop provided an examination of the topic from multiple different perspectives, which leaves one with an appreciation for the vast nature of the subject.”

Mayfield echoed a similar observation, “I was particularly impressed by the way presenters tied together immigration policies and current racial and ethnic tensions in Europe. Being able to understand and share with my students such complex and dynamic relationships will improve their ability to participate as informed global citizens.”


Teachers who may be interested in future workshops presented by the Ellison Center and its partners, should sign up for the public email list here. Future workshops will be announced on the Ellison Center website and on the public email list.

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Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Box 353650
Seattle WA, 98195-3650