The Toyota International Teacher Program provides international, professional-development opportunities to U.S. secondary school teachers to advance environmental stewardship and global connectedness in U.S. schools and communities. Each year, the program sends educators overseas for short-term (2-3 week) study tours to countries that are at the forefront of innovative solutions to environmental challenges. Participating teachers explore social and environmental issues through hands-on activities, and apply what they learn to create interdisciplinary and solution-focused lesson plans.
The program is for U.S. educators and teacher-librarians (grades 7-12) who teach in U.S. schools throughout the 50 states and District of Columbia. Teachers of diverse backgrounds and experience are strongly encouraged to apply. The program is sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. and administered by the Institute of International Education. The Toyota International Teacher Program is the only program of its kind to be sponsored by a major U.S. corporation.
Participants are selected through a competitive application and selection process. Since the program's inception in 1998, 685 teachers nationwide have participated in Toyota International Teacher Programs to Japan, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, and South Africa.
Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. will cover all expenses specific to the program. This includes costs of program materials, transportation, meals, and lodging. Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. will also issue each participant’s school a $500.00 stipend to help defray the costs of participation during the school year.
Applicants should note that they also may need to consider other costs, such as those associated with being away from their jobs during the program and pre-departure expenses such as passports, travel supplies, etc. These costs are not funded by the program.
Schools should regard their educator's participation in this program as a valuable investment for their students and communities. As such, they are encouraged to explore with participants avenues for sharing any costs not covered by the program sponsor.
The Toyota International Teacher Program began in 1998, with 50 teachers traveling to Japan for a two-week study visit. A total of 433 U.S. teachers traveled to Japan and gained first-hand exposure to its culture and society, and shared this knowledge with their students and community members back in the United States. The Program to Japan greatly surpassed expectations as it added a tremendous amount of value in the classroom and continues to impact schools and communities nationwide.
Based on the success of the Japan study visits and the increasing importance of environmental issues worldwide, the program was expanded in 2006 to include a teacher program to the Galapagos Islands. Toyota’s involvement with the Galápagos Islands began in 2001, when the company partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to help conserve the Islands’ unique ecosystem. Toyota has since supported and funded many projects and programs in the Galápagos Islands. These include a redesign of the main fuel-handling facility, renewable-energy teacher education workshops, and oil and municipal recycling programs. Community education and outreach have also been key components of all projects.
In 2007, the Toyota International Teacher Program began sending teachers to Costa Rica, a country dedicated to protecting its natural resources, and where local experts educate teachers on local development, agronomy, and conservation practices.
The Programs to Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands have taken 178 educators from all over the United States to learn about solutions to global environmental issues.
The inaugural Toyota International Teacher Program to South Africa was launched in 2011. The program provided 24 U.S. teachers the opportunity to learn first-hand about sustainability and conservation efforts in South Africa, the country's rich cultural heritage, and the economic and political issues facing the country today. During their travels to Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, and Kruger National Park, the teachers participated in a variety of activities that highlighted the relationship between South African history, culture, and the environment. A program highlight was four days of shared programming with 12 local South African teachers in Cape Town, including visits to their schools.
2009 Toyota International Teacher Program to Costa Rica Post Program Impact
On April 18, 2009, 25 U.S. secondary school teachers from 22 states across the United States embarked on a two-week journey to explore environmental conservation and sustainability as part of the third Toyota International Teacher Program to Costa Rica. Once again, the program was a great success. Teachers reported feeling inspired and empowered to become better stewards of the environment; committed to living more responsibly as global citizens; committed to bringing global views and events into their classrooms; re-energized with new ideas for curricula; and better prepared to teach about environmental issues and solutions.
These teachers also have the ability to influence decisions and practices within their schools, districts, and communities, and it is clear that the Program is already having some affect. Less than one month after the program, 83 percent of participants reported that they were planning collaborative projects with students, other teachers, and education leaders. For example, one teacher is planning to work with other technology leaders through the New Hampshire Department of Education on an Intel Learning Unit on Sustainable Living Systems. Another teacher is planning to work with a group of students and the City of Sioux City to create a green-space at a "rundown" park. Additionally, 79 percent of participants will make at least one presentation reflecting on their experience in the program.
Although many teachers who apply and are selected to participate in the Toyota International Teacher Program already have some knowledge of and interest in environmental issues, they undeniably learn a great deal on these study trips. More than 70 percent of teachers reported that they learned a great deal about climate change, conservation management, biodiversity, global citizenship, ecotourism, Costa Rican society and culture, and land use management. A majority also learned about sustainable agriculture, environmental education, corporate social responsibility, and global sustainability.
Changes in Perceptions and Beliefs
For some teachers, the program was a transformative, life-changing experience: