Emily Philpott stands at the Reichstag Building, the Seat of the German Bundestag.
Emily Philpott stands at the Reichstag Building, the Seat of the German Bundestag.
Most teachers get an opportunity to enjoy a nice, long summer break, but for St. Andrew’s social studies teacher Emily Philpott, this summer has been exceptional.

Philpott recently returned from a two-week trip to Germany, where she took part in a fellowship through the Transatlantic Outreach Program. There, she toured the cities of Michelstadt, Geisa, Weimar, Fulda, and Berlin and learned about Germany’s education system, economy, civics and history. 

Philpott and her colleagues had experts guide them virtually everywhere they went and even received a tour of Berlin from a refugee living in the city.

“I feel very fortunate to have been accepted,” Philpott said. “It was a really wonderful way to learn about Germany and its history.”

Philpott heard about the program from one of her colleagues in the Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program. Once accepted, she and 14 other teachers from around the country traveled first to Washington, D.C. for two days of orientation, then on to Germany from May 31 to June 15.

The Transatlantic Outreach Program - TOP for short - is a prestigious program applied to by hundreds of teachers from across North America. This year, only 115 social studies or STEM teachers were selected to attend in groups of 15 or fewer.

TOP was founded in 2002 through the Federal Office of Germany, the Goethe Institute and Deutsche Bank, among others. It is designed as a professional development opportunity that includes curriculum design, workshops and the two-week study tour in Germany. Teachers selected for the program travel expense-free.

“The Transatlantic Outreach Program exists to increase the knowledge of Germany throughout the U.S. - and throughout the world - to give teachers more resources and experiences to aid in the teaching of Germany as it relates to different areas of history,” Philpott said.

Along with visiting several cities, the group had an opportunity to see some more solemn places while in Germany such as the Berlin Wall, the Old East Germany and West Germany border, and the Buchenwald Concentration Camp from World War II. Philpott even had the opportunity to talk with people who lived through the Cold War. 

Philpott said she can’t wait to share the experiences she enjoyed with her St. Andrew’s students.
“I think just hearing firsthand accounts and visiting these places in person are some of my favorite memories,” she said. “I think it will make me a better teacher when I get to these topics in my classes.”

Philpott said one of the more intriguing parts of the trip was learning about the vocation-based German education system, which becomes more track-focused sooner than its counterpart in the U.S. But despite these differences between the American and the German school system, they still have a lot of things in common.

Though she’s been state-side for nearly a month, Philpott said experiences like the one she enjoyed made the TOP program what it has become.

“I’ve participated in some wonderful professional-development programs and this is one of the best that I’ve done,” Philpott said. “I’d recommend it to any teachers that are looking for experiences to learn and grow in their profession.”