Shafer explores Australian, Tongan media with fellowship

Fund for Teachers pays Shafer $5,000 for visit


Lisa Shafer stands next to Tonga High School Principal Amelia Foloaumahina.

Lisa Shafer and her host Olini stop by the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, during Shafer's Fund For Teachers fellowship.
Lisa Shafer and her host Olini stop by the Royal Palace in Nuku’alofa, Tonga, during Shafer’s Fund For Teachers fellowship.
In order to fill some of her gaps as a teacher, Lisa Shafer traveled 7,500 miles away.

She went to Tonga, Australia and New Zealand for a 25-day fellowship through the Fund for Teachers program to research multimedia and multicultural journalism.

“The Fund for Teachers fellowship was an amazing experience. It has helped me to connect with my students more meaningfully and to also better understand news gathering in the digital age,” said Shafer.

In Tonga, Shafer met up with award-winning journalist Kalafi Moala, who was put in jail for writing stories critical of the government.

She also visited Tonga High School, where she noticed that students did not have textbooks and teachers and students had to spend a lot of time writing out problems and solutions from the old chalkboards.

Her tour guide at Tonga High School was Etuate Sunia.

Sunia used to go to Tonga High School but got kicked out for being “a bad boy.” He said that when he was in high school he bullied other students because he was getting bullied by adults at the school. But now, Sunia is part of a campaign to stop bullying called “Stop the Bull.”

Before she went to Tonga, Shafer spent time in Australia studying multimedia journalism. She spent several days job shadowing the data editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.

Her first day at the paper was a breaking news day. As she headed to the newspaper, she learned an airplane carrying 29 Australians had been shot down over Ukraine.

“It was a sad day, but it was also fascinating to watch the online editors make decisions about what videos to show and where to place their different stories,” said Shafer.

Shafer also interviewed the Herald’s education reporter and discovered Australia shares many of the same issues with education that America has.

She also interviewed digital storyteller Kavita Bedford about her work telling stories about minorities in Australia.

“Kavita gave me a tip that ended up giving me the best reporting experience of my fellowship,” said Shafer.

Bedford encouraged Shafer to visit the “Aborigine tent embassay” in a section of Sydney where native people were protesting the gentrification of land they had been promised after the colonization oftheir lands.

“The aborigines had a great respect for Oakland and for the Black Panthers,” said Shafer. “They told me to let my students know they should fight against
gentrification of Oakland.”

Shafer has many conversations with her students including students from Tonga about her experiences.

“It was an educational experience that was also 100 percent fun,” Shafer said as her overall experience in her 25-day trip.

To read all about Shafer’s Fund for Teachers grant, go to her blog.