MOTO heads to South Pacific, reaches milestone

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Ministry of Teaching Overseas offers teacher education students at Avondale cross-cultural service learning experience. More than 20 students completed a placement in Tonga, the first MOTO destination in the Pacific islands, in February.

A service learning initiative offering teacher education students at Avondale professional experience in another culture chalked up its 21st trip in February. And, for the first time, a Pacific island country was the destination.

Twenty-four students visited Tonga to complete one of their two-week placements at Beulah College, Beulah Primary School and Hilliard Memorial School. The Nuku’alofa-based Seventh-day Adventist schools hosted the students from February 5-25.

Prior to the placements, Ministry of Teaching Overseas (MOTO) coordinator Dr Jason Hinze said both the schools and the students will benefit from the experience. “I’m hoping our teachers demonstrate some innovative strategies their supervisors will adopt in the classroom. But we’re going to learn a lot, too, as these supervisors share their experiences with us.”

"A lot of our teachers are studying at Avondale because they want to use their God-given gifts to make a contribution to the world."

Dr Hinze also encouraged the students to contribute to other areas of campus life, including the schools’ agricultural programs, social activities and worship services. “Taking our teachers into another culture, a new context, destabilises their initial understanding of what makes quality teaching. They begin questioning what they once took for granted.”

MOTO is leaving a legacy. Almost 350 students have participated in a trip since 2007—India, Cambodia and Nepal being previous destinations—while Dr Hinze has raised almost $A350,000 to build schools, feed orphans and pay teachers in the countries through the 1% Club, a group of alumni and friends of Avondale who donate at least one per cent of their wages for mission.

The ministry is also receiving recognition. In a letter of recommendation, the university college’s International Community Engagement coordinator Dr Brad Watson describes Dr Hinze as demonstrating “outstanding commitment and passion to involve others in service”. A senior lecturer in the School of Education, Dr Hinze received a Faculty of Education, Business and Science Excellence Award this past year for “innovation in work integrated learning or community engagement” that “enhances student engagement in real-word tasks”. The MOTO acknowledgment comes also in a public note of thanks from dean Associate Professor Kevin Petrie who writes, “These trips leave an indelible mark on the life of the students and on the communities they spend time with.”

That mark includes a better sense of teaching not just as a career but as a ministry. “A lot of our teachers are studying at Avondale because they want to use their God-given gifts to make a contribution to the world,” says Dr Hinze. “MOTO is an opportunity to do this. And they love it! They return inspired to serve even more. Teachers with that mentality will last the distance in our schools.”