Brianne Eisenecker Expands Teaching Skills in Cambodia

Brianne Eisenecker poses with children at an orphanage in Pursat, Cambodia

Many education majors strive for the opportunity to teach children in a foreign country. Brianne Eisenecker ’18, early childhood and special education dual major, was able to spend three weeks earlier this summer in Pursat, Cambodia, teaching and helping children in an orphanage.

Eisenecker volunteered through the organization International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) and stayed with a Cambodian couple located about three miles from the orphanage. 

Eisenecker taught two classes; one in the morning with youngsters between the ages of 12–14 and one in the afternoon with kids between the ages of 5–12. The classroom was located under a straw roof with stone benches and a table. There were few teaching resources in the classroom, except for a whiteboard.

Along with other volunteers, Eisenecker would make lesson plans during lunches and dinners. She brought a bag of paper and colored pencils everyday for the kids to draw with in the classroom. The group primarily focused on incorporating coloring, shapes, and handwriting into the lesson plans.

“I loved watching what the little ones would draw, because it often reflected what they were feeling o cultural things that were important to them,” said Eisenecker. “It was so amazing to spend time with the children because they had next to nothing but were the happiest children I’ve ever met. They were so loving and loyal to one another. Their smiles and laughter are things that I doubt I will ever forget.”

Eisenecker explained that teaching American English was tricky because the children were used to the British and Australian way of spelling. They also struggled with the concept of spacing out letters when writing in English because in their native language, Khmer, it is written in script.

“This experience gave me a lot of actual teaching time in front of a class, which helped me explore my teaching style,” said Eisenecker. “It was a lot of hands-on experience working with children, which was very beneficial.”

Eisenecker’s favorite part of the trip was the children. Not only did she get the chance to teach children, but they also taught her about Cambodia and their culture. 

“Spending time with them was the absolute best,” said Eisenecker. “At the end of class they would steal our bikes so that we couldn’t leave right away, and they would run into the courtyard when we arrived. The kids’ laughs and smiles were my favorite parts.”

Eisenecker would love to return to Cambodia, as well travel to other countries, to teach children in the future.

“The experience as a whole was amazing and life-changing,” said Eisenecker. “I knew going into it that I was going to fall in love with the country and the kids were going to have an impact on me; but, I never expected any of it to capture my heart the way it did. The kids stole my heart, and I truly did fall in love with Cambodia.”

Read more about Brianne's trip on her blog.