World Affairs Council Teacher Workshop Focused on Turkish History and Culture

The rich heritage of Turkey is shared with area teachers in world affairs symposium.

Nashville – Feb. 28, 2016 – Turkey is a land of superlatives for the educators who spent a day examining its history, culture, art, architecture, cuisine, music and more on Saturday as part of the annual “Spotlight on Turkey” program organized by the Tennessee World Affairs Council. The workshop brought together high school teachers from three counties in Tennessee for a daylong program at Belmont University designed to give them insights and tools for the classroom.


Turkey’s rich history from pre-historic to modern times was explored by Belmont History Professor Daniel Schafer who unraveled the country’s role as a center of civilization for millennia. He easily combined his scholarship on Turkish history with personal reflections gained from student travel-study visits to the country and an array of photos, maps and slides that gave the teachers a comprehensive overview of Turkey being at the hinge of world history over the centuries.


The workshop also offered the academic insights and perspectives of Professor Michael Gunter from Tennessee Tech University, one of the nation’s foremost scholars on the Kurds and Middle East politics. Gunter presented a snapshot of Turkey in the modern world, including its relationship with Europe and the West and the challenges it faces in the Middle East.


One of the goals of the symposium is to provide teachers with insights into the “Spotlight on Turkey” program’s other elements, especially the summer-study tour to Turkey that they can apply for as a result of workshop completion. The teachers watched a documentary produced by an earlier study group visit and heard veteran teacher David Huebner describe his experiences from the 2008 “Spotlight” study tour to Turkey. Huebner, president-elect of the Tennessee Council on Social Studies shared his personal insights from the trip and best practices on translating the experiences of the workshop and the study tour to the classroom.


The workshop wasn’t all lectures and presentations. For lunch the teachers feasted on a buffet lunch provided by the Istanbul Restaurant in Nashville that featured a range of sumptuous Turkish specialties as a prelude to the meals that will be enjoyed by the teachers selected for the summer study tour.


Providing global affairs awareness programs and resources, especially to educators and students is the primary mission of the Tennessee World Affairs Council, according to its president Patrick Ryan, “The Council brings assets to the community in an effort to raise awareness of not just important, timely hot topic issues but also to educate and inspire a basic understanding of the wider world.” He added, “Just this month we’ve presented programs in Nashville with the ambassadors of Ireland and Russia, the Consul-General of Japan, as well as this workshop on Turkey and our annual championship match for Academic WorldQuest, a state-wide competition for high school students.”

The World Affairs Council, now in its eighth year, moved to Nashville last year from Cookeville to be better able to meet the growing statewide needs for international affairs programs. Ryan said, “There’s definitely a need for global awareness programs as evidenced by many studies and anecdotal evidence, but our Council must do a better job in getting the word out to the community, especially local schools, about what is available.” The workshop and the WorldQuest competition attracted students and teachers from a half dozen counties in Tennessee and, in the case of the student competition, teams from Alabama and Georgia. “We’re especially fortunate to have developed a partnership with Belmont University,” said Ryan, “which affords access to this beautiful campus for the Council’s programs that benefit the community.”


The Spotlight on Turkey program is a joint collaboration between the Turkish Cultural Foundation and the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA). This is the ninth year of this national educational program for American educators. Organized through TCF and WACA with a network of WACA affiliates nationwide, the program is funded by a major grant from TCF and features teacher workshops on Turkey, teacher study tours to Turkey, and a series of cultural programs for the general public titled “Portrait of Turkey.”

“Spotlight on Turkey” will host a 15-day study program for 30 teachers to Turkey in July including educators nominated by the Tennessee World Affairs Council. The teachers – from Williamson, Overton and Putnam counties – who participated in the workshop yesterday are eligible for the travel program. Ryan said, “Programs like this are worth tens of thousands of dollars in educational investment for our communities and we hope to reach more teachers and students with these important opportunities.


The “Spotlight on Turkey” program held at Belmont on Saturday was organized by the Tennessee World Affairs Council, a nonpartisan, educational, nonprofit group that works to educate and inspire a greater understanding of global issues among members of the community. In addition to a regular speaker program it organizes local discussion groups, student international affairs awareness programs and teacher training. The Council welcomes new members and contributors and offers a complete list of past and future programs on its web site at

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The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at: 

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