Steamboat Springs High School graduate teaching in Kosovo | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs High School graduate teaching in Kosovo

Teresa Ristow

— Inside her Kosovo classroom, Steamboat Springs native Meghan Lukens' laptop is outdated, the power routinely shuts off and resources are limited.

Despite this, Lukens' teenage students are engaged, intensely curious and eager to learn about American history and government.

Lukens, a 2011 Steamboat Springs High School graduate and 2015 University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate, is about five months into a two-year stint teaching in Kosovo, a developing country where many teens are functionally illiterate, according to test results from the International Program for Student Assessment, or PISA.

"I have incredible students," Lukens said via email from Kosovo Sunday. "My students especially make the challenges worth it. I am teaching U.S. history and U.S. government to mostly ethnic Albanian students, with a couple who are Spanish, Swiss, Romanian, Turkish and British. Only two or three have American passports. And yet, they love learning about U.S. history and government."

Lukens said she is teaching at a relatively wealthy private school in the country’s capital of Pristina, but has heard from coworkers and former public school graduates how public school conditions in the country make it difficult for teachers effectively educate students.

"Kosovo as a country is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and the education system definitely makes this obvious," Lukens said. "Schools are underfunded, most schools don't have libraries and teachers don't have access to adequate teacher training."

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Lukens said she took the job in Kosovo after attending an overseas teaching fair in Iowa following her college graduation. She connected with the American School of Kosova's leader and was eager to travel farther east in Europe than she had before.

"When I first came to Kosovo, I saw a busy city with lots of construction and a huge amount of people outside socializing, which made me very excited for my time in this country as there seemed to be so much fun going on," Lukens said.

After arriving in the country in August, Lukens said she was surprised to learn that a large portion of her students were born in refugee camps after Kosovo's 1999 war with Serbia.

"Because of this, my students and co-workers have incredible and humbling stories about what the human body can endure," Lukens said.

Tensions during the war meant many Albanian Kosovars were unable to attend school in the 1990s or had to attend in secret, Lukens said.

"Because of this, Albanian Kosovars today have a great regard for education, creating an incredible place for me to work as a teacher," she said. "It creates a very positive and uplifting atmosphere full of students who are so happy to be learning."

Read more about Lukens' time in Kosovo on her blog, traveling-mermaid.com.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow