Taking the Gift of Teaching Abroad

Written by: 
Ellen Rossetti

J’Layne Sundberg (Courtesy of J’Layne Sundberg)When school closed for the summer, J'Layne Sundberg (ʼ06) left her classroom of gifted and talented students in Flower Mound and headed to Maai Mahiu, Kenya, to teach orphaned children. For six weeks, she taught second- and third-graders at Cornerstone Preparatory Academy at Naomi's Village -- a home for orphans. Before arriving in the safety of Naomi's Village, many of the children faced unspeakable tragedies, she says. At Cornerstone, they get a high-quality education in a country where many do not attend school.

"These kids are going to change their country," Sundberg says. "They are going to have knowledge."

One boy struggling to focus in the classroom became her sole student for four weeks. Under her guidance, he learned to read books and identify shapes. Before she left Kenya, he rose during a farewell gathering and thanked her, telling her he wouldn't forget her.

"He doesn't keep a lot of things in his short-term memory," Sundberg says, her voice breaking. "He used so much of his mental ability to memorize the speech and recite it in front of the staff; it took a lot of effort. It means so much to me that he was able to do that."

She earned a bachelor's degree from the College of Education and has taught in the Lewisville ISD since then. But her journey isn't finished. She hopes to move to Kenya next year to teach more children.

"I have no illusion that it will be easy," she says. "But why not go out there and see what I can accomplish with all of the learning and skills I've been gifted with since being at North Texas? It started there."