In Their Own Words: Bhutanese Teachers Reflect on US Educational Experience

The Situation
Two teachers, Chimi Zangmo from Drugyel Lower Secondary School in Paro, Bhutan, and Chimi Lhamo from Changangkha Lower Secondary School in Thimphu, did not have any experience nor education in teaching children with special needs. They, both, realized that they do have students that will require extra help and accommodations to help them succeed in school and wanted to explore ways to help their students. In 2009, the Bhutan Foundation’s Special Education Program supported the two teachers attend master’s degree courses at the College of New Rochelle in New York on special education as well as gain classroom experience.

The Insight
Having students with all different types and ranges of disabilities, Chimi Zangmo and Chimi Lhamo faced a lot of difficulties in providing the right type of support for their students. In addition, they also realized there is a good percentage of students with learning difficulties and disabilities in their schools. These difficulties made them reach out to the Ministry of Education to request for training in special education.

The Solution
At the College of New Rochelle, New York, Chimi Zangmo and Chimi Lhamo took the following courses:

  1. Testing and Assessment
  2. Learning and Behaviour Disorders in Children
  3. Instructional and Curricular Components for Teaching Students with Autism and Severe Disabilities
  4. Student Behavioral Strategies in the Classroom
  5. Leadership Seminar in Childhood Special Education: Field Practicum and Research with Special Project
  6. Differentiated Instructions in the Learning Environment
  7. Creative Arts for Teaching & Learning
  8. Introduction to Literacy Instruction

The teachers stayed in New York for a period of nine months taking classes as well as gaining hands-on experience at the local schools catering to students with special needs in Westchester County.

The Results
Below, in their own words, the teachers share their experiences and what they learned at the College of New Rochelle, New York. Chimi Lhamo describes her experience during her visit to the United States:

I gained invaluable knowledge working as an intern at the Mamaroneck AvenueElementary andCentral Elementary School in New York. I learned many new things from teachers at both schools. It was a struggle but worth every moment. I went to New York with a very vague idea of special education but have now returned with so much that I was very eager to share with all my colleagues here in Bhutan.
While in New York, I thought a lot about all my students with special needs in Bhutan and wished that they, too, were able to receive the same kind of help and attention as the children with special needs in the United States. I’m very satisfied with what I learned from the College of New Rochelle, and I wish to do my best in the interest of all the children with special needs in Bhutan. My dream was not to travel to the other side of the world, but to learn and be able to do something for all children with special needs in Bhutan and to support the teachers who work with them. This trip to the United States has been very rewarding for me. I always had the passion, and now I have the new skills and knowledge to support my teaching. I want to extend my sincere gratitude to everyone for their support. I would like to dedicate the rest of my teaching career to special education for the benefit of all children with special needs in Bhutan.

— Chimi Lhamo, Special Education Coordinator in Changangkha Lower Secondary School

Chimi Zangmo tells us about her experience learning in the United States:

It was a great opportunity and a wonderful learning experience for me to go to the United States and learn about special education. I think children with special needs should be given a lot of support to help them develop and enable them to be at par with other children. Besides reading and writing, I think teaching life skills to children with special needs is crucial. The courses at the College of New Rochelle, New York, and the internship at the Mamaroneck Avenue Elementary School where there is a Board of Co-operational Educational Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program, provided me with experience that would be very useful in helping with special educational needs.
Essentials of special education, from setting up an effective learning environment to differentiating instructions and managing children according to their interests, strengths, and behaviour, were what I learned from my time in New York. I believe it is essential for special education teachers to be knowledgeable about the traits of disabilities in order to enable them to adapt instructional methods to accommodate the special education needs of children.
I am looking forward to returning to Bhutan to share my experience, knowledge,and skills with teachers in my school and to implement what I have learned in the classroom.

— Chimi Zangmo, Special Education Coordinator at the Wangsel Institute, Paro