How This High School English Teacher Facilitated a Powerful Collaborative Lesson With Ukrainian Students  

He created an experience his students won’t forget.

Pictures from Keith Perkins' virtual poetry lesson

High school English teacher Keith Perkins of Wayne Hills High School recently took “real-world learning” to a new level. In a recent virtual poetry lesson, Perkins gave his students the opportunity to connect with students from Rivne, Ukraine, fostering a global exchange of ideas and experiences. The session brought together approximately 30 Ukrainian students, their teacher, and an administrator from the International University of Economics and Humanities in Rivne, spread across two engaging sessions.

How did Perkins set up this virtual poetry lesson?

Perkins wanted to provide his students with an experience that transcended geographical boundaries. A big undertaking, but luckily, technology stepped in to help. Their partnership was facilitated through Epals is an online platform connecting educators with classrooms worldwide. By leveraging this technology to bridge the gap between classrooms, Perkins aimed to instill in his students a sense of curiosity, empathy, and cultural awareness.

Of course, something like this doesn’t happen overnight. The collaborative event was the culmination of two months of preparation and interaction. Prior to the virtual class, students from both sides of the globe engaged in a dynamic exchange on, sharing videos on various topics and engaging in dialogue. This prelude laid the groundwork for meaningful connections and facilitated a deeper understanding of each other’s cultures and perspectives.

Finally, the day of the virtual lesson arrived.

However, just as the event was about to start, something happened that Perkins’ students won’t soon forget. During an audio-video test, the Ukrainian teacher revealed that some students would be late due to an air raid drill, compelling them to seek refuge in designated bunkers. “My students witnessed this unfortunate reality in real time and it made our lesson that much more relevant and meaningful,” Perkins said. After the delay, the students eventually joined the session, their presence imbuing the lesson with an acute sense of relevance.

The focus of the session was on the poetry of Serhiy Zhadan, a prominent contemporary Ukrainian poet renowned for his evocative reflections on the impact of war on his homeland. First, the classes exchanged opening remarks and greetings. Next, both classes watched the first three minutes of a documentary on the poet that features his poem “To know that you still lie there beyond the scorched mountain.” Finally, both classes discussed the poem including poetic devices, messages, and techniques. The event ended with both classes pledging to collaborate in the future.

Why lessons like these matter


For Perkins, initiatives like the virtual exchange epitomize the transformative power of education. It represents a commitment to breaking down barriers and nurturing a sense of interconnectedness among students, empowering them to embrace the world beyond the confines of their classroom walls.

This event highlighted Perkins’ dedication to creating a classroom environment that fosters curiosity, empathy, and a sense of global citizenship. But beyond just an individual teacher and class, Perkins’ example serves as a powerful reminder of the profound impact that educators can have in shaping the futures of their students and inspiring them to dream big, read widely, and embrace the world with open arms. According to Perkins, “I firmly believe that part of my mission as an educator is to open the doors and windows of a safe and nurturing classroom and declare adamantly: ‘You can go there!’”

His students certainly did.

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High school English teacher Keith Perkins gave his students the opportunity to connect with students from Rivne, Ukraine, fostering a global exchange of ideas and experiences.