Brian Cushing is gaining a world class education.

Over the past 10 years, Cushing, 58, of Bridgton has journeyed to places like Germany, Japan, Italy, Greece, Austria, Russia, Brazil and South Korea, returning to share what he has learned about other cultures with his Lake Region High School social studies students. Not bad for a guy who had never traveled farther than Canada before age 48.

Cushing’s passion for geography has propelled him from the Naples classroom into state and nationwide teaching settings to train other educators about geography. He is a board member on the Maine Council for Social Studies, a trainer with the National Geographic Society and the Maine Geographic Bee coordinator. Cushing’s work also has earned him an invitation to return to China and Taiwan this summer as part of the Teaching East Asia program through the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The trip (Cushing’s fourth to China) is funded by the Freeman Foundation.

Lynn Parisi, director of the East Asia program, said the seminar is an advanced level immersion course for teachers, like Cushing, who have already studied and traveled to China and want a better understanding of contemporary China.

Cushing is considered a veteran of the professional development programs at the Teaching East Asia program, where he teaches other educators.

“Brian has been an outstanding teacher participant in our programs, which is why he was selected as one of 10 teachers to take part in this seminar in China,” said Parisi. “He combines strong academic background in history and geography, with innovative teaching and a genuine commitment to enhancing the study of Asia in his classes, and in preparing his students for the global realities of the 21st Century.”

Cushing sees the trip as a great opportunity to train his students for future relations with China.

“(Previously), a lot of social studies teaching was Eurocentric,” said Cushing. “We didn’t learn a lot about nations like China and India, which is amazing since one of every six people on the planet live in there. This is an area our kids need to learn about, including teaching them Chinese as a language option.”

Christina Gaumont, a fellow history and world geography teacher at Lake Region High School and a co-leader of the 2007 trip to China, said Cushing’s knowledge and experience make geography “come alive” in his classroom.

“Many people think the study of geography includes only the political and physical landscapes of our world, but it is really much more,” said Gaumont. “Brian often encourages his students to explore geographic trends and to try to solve geographic problems that exist in our world.”

The 14-day trip will have Cushing and eight other educators involved in an in-depth study of the East Asian culture. They’ll be required do extensive research before touring and will visit historical sites, factories and universities and meet with Chinese educators. This fall, they’ll reunite to share their learning and how they intend to incorporate it into their respective classroom settings.

Cushing also hopes to continue with his personal quest to learn more about the world’s youth culture while in East Asia. He always carries a list of 10 thought-provoking questions that he poses to young adults during his travels.

“It’s a cool way to get insight into a culture,” said Cushing. “My passion is to broaden my kids’ horizons — to have an awareness and sensitivity of other cultures, and what other people think and believe. We are not the center of our universe.

 

Staff Writer Deborah Sayer can be contacted at 791-6308 or at: [email protected]