The Panama Teach Project

About Panama Teach

The Project

The American University School of Education (SOE), in conjunction with Panamanian educators, launched Panama Teach, an 18-month project that includes the development of an evidence-based, continuing professional development plan for in-service teachers (and leaders) in Panama. The program focuses on increasing the number of teacher leaders experienced to train other teachers and leaders. Panama Teach is funded by AU alumnus and Board of Trustees member Fernando Lewis '85, his wife Susana, and their family as part of the Change Can't Wait campaign.

From 2014 through 2019, AU hosted 285 English teachers from Panama to improve their teaching by studying language teaching methodology and strategies, project-based learning, and educational leadership. AU School of Education graduate students and alumni have assisted in both Panamá Bilingüe and now Panama Teach, said Danielle Sodani, director of the Institute for Innovation and Education and School of Education faculty member who contributes to Panama Teach. “We continue to have a strong relationship with teachers in Panama and transitioned to Panama Teach with a focus on policy and broader view of teacher development across the country,” Sodani explained.

A New Report

new report by the School of Education and the Educational Research Center of Panama reveals gaps in the professional development Panama teachers receive and makes recommendations for changes. Released in September 2022, both the report and resulting teacher training for Panamanian teachers are part of the Panama Teach program.

An event in Panama to raise awareness about the report and connect with officials was well attended by the minister of education, representatives from teacher unions, government, universities, and NGOs. Courtesy: CIEDUMore than 1,000 teachers and education officials in Panama responded to a survey about professional development, answering questions about their experiences and offering thoughts on opportunities to enhance skills in areas such as technology in the classroom and subject matter expertise. AU and CIEDU researchers analyzed and synthesized these data for the report. Read more about the report and release event.  

COVID-19's Impact on Education in Panama

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing quality public education is as urgent as ever. Panama experienced one of the longest school closure times of all countries around the world, which resulted in widening the existing gaps in learning outcomes for students, she added. Across Panama, teachers teach in areas without electricity and internet access. During school closures, access to virtual education was limited for many students, De León said. Nearly half of teenagers that should be in high school are not enrolled, and there are high dropout rates in both middle and high schools in Panama, according to CIEDU. Panama also struggles with large inequalities and access to virtual education, or even to electricity or cellphone coverage that would facilitate access to lessons and contact with teachers. The COVID-19 impact has widened previous learning outcome gaps.

Future Work

The project aligns SOE's expertise with the interests of Panama and the desire of the Lewis Family to affect meaningful change in their nation. The new teacher training opportunities in Panama are expected to take place in 2023. This project is a pillar of the SOE’s new chapter as an independent school and supports Panama's efforts to push for change within its education system.

The program is having an impact on policy and informing several next steps. An event in Panama to raise awareness about the report and connect with officials was well attended by the minister of education, representatives from teacher unions, government, universities, and NGOs. In addition to teacher trainings, the research team is using the findings to push for new legislation in Panama and creation of an institute for professional development and teacher well-being.

AU Ties to Panama

Across AU’s eight schools and colleges, there are more than 500 alumni from Panama. Panama Teach is the latest example of a partnership between AU and Panama that has focused on improving teacher development and skills. Previously, AU School of Education was one of 20 participating universities in Panamá Bilingüe, a national initiative in Panama aimed at improving second language proficiency for Panamanian students. Mark Forsberg worked with Panamá Bilingüe and is a graduate of the International Training and Education Program in the School of Education. Bernard Reeves is pursuing an education doctoral degree in Education Policy and Leadership and helped with Panama Teach.

Watch to Learn More

Panama Bilingüe and Panama Teach

Panama Bilingue and Panama Teach video still

Highlighting the School of Education's ongoing relationship with Panama’s education community, watch this video to hear about the success of the Panama Bilingüe program. SOE partnered with schools across DC to host Panamanian teachers to observe classroom practices and interact with students. The Panama Teach project will share the advancement of continuous professional development for Panamanian teachers.