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Alums prepared for changing teaching environments

July 10, 2020

Alumni Andrew and Brandi Fiegen have been teaching in person and online at an international school in Thailand.

The Master of Science in Educational Technology (MSET) program prepares students for technology-enriched classrooms  anywhere in the world, under any circumstances.

Two alumni are a prime example of this – Andrew and Brandi (Antonsen) Fiegen.

The couple taught in Thailand at the American School of Bangkok for the 2019-2020 academic year. Andrew (’18 K-8 Education and ’19 MSET) taught English as an Additional Language (EAL) to middle and high school students.

Brandi (’18 Education and December ’20 MSET)  joined him in January to work in elementary learning support, after finishing a graduate assistantship with the Center for Teaching and Learning.

“I feel we were well prepared for any teaching environment we would have stepped into this past year,” said Brandi.

“The College of Education professors and instructors really encourage future teachers to look seriously at the importance of building quality and respectful relationships with kids,” said Andrew.  “This is one thing they strive for and model in the College of Education.”

This is especially important for an international setting. “The relationships piece is huge when you’re working with students who have experiences that are vastly different than your own.

The couple enjoyed experiencing Thailand through eyes of the children. “We are learning from them as they learn through us,” Andrew said. The 600 students at the American School of Bangkok are mostly Thai natives, but there are other nationalities, too.  “It’s fun to hear their stories and about their customs and how they are different,” he stated.

The College of Education and MSET also prepare students pedagogically.

“DSU does a tremendous job preparing their teachers for a technology-enriched classroom,” said Brandi. This fact became particularly important when the Bangkok school went online in March due to the novel coronavirus.

“Just as every teacher in the world had to prepare for elearning this year, we transferred to an online setting in March,” Brandi said. “It was a pretty smooth process considering the circumstances.”

It also provided Brandi with an opportunity to help other teachers. “I was able to gain exposure as an educational technology leader by helping other teachers transition to an online platform,” she said. “It was nice to be able to help other teachers who didn’t have as much experience, and provide them with helpful elearning tools.”

When elearning continued for the remainder of the academic year, the Fiegens returned to the U.S. and continued teaching their students from 8,000 miles away. “Elearning from South Dakota made for some late nights because of the 12-hour time difference, but it worked,” said Andrew. He is originally from Madison, S.D., and Brandi is from Volga, S.D.

The couple plans to return to Thailand in Fall 2020, Andrew to teach EAL, and Brandi to teach middle school math.

 “We never felt unsafe there and are looking forward to returning in the fall,” he said. “It helps that the Thai people are so nice,” said Brandi.

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