Muscatine teachers set to explore the world

West Middle School teacher Bret Woodward with Keith Porter, president of the Stanley Center for Peace and Security. Woodward will travel to Papua New Guinea this summer as part of the Catherine Miller Explorer Awards. Photo by Jim Elias

By Jim Elias

Muscatine teachers Lee Plummer and Bret Woodward were recently named the 2020 Catherine Miller Explorer Award recipients by the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

Each year, the Stanley Center invites local teachers to apply for a summer study tour outside of the United States.  It’s belief that when teachers have the opportunity to travel abroad, they can enhance their ability to support students from diverse backgrounds and add new perspectives to their classrooms.

“I’m hoping to learn more about the rain forest and it would be cool to be exposed to some the indigenous people,” said Bret Woodward, 8th grade algebra teacher at West Middle School.  Woodward plans to tour Papua New Guinea this summer for his part of the program.

“I want to show kids there’s a big world out there and to be inspired to change things on their own,” Woodward added.

The awards are named after Catherine Miller, a longtime Muscatine educator who was an avid traveler and always sought to expand her students’ understanding of the world.

Plummer, who is associate director of Bands for Muscatine High School, plans to travel to Brazil this summer.

“I love jazz music and love to share that with my students,” said Plummer.  “Brazil’s bossa nova and samba music I think will be something cool to bring back to students.”

According to the Stanley Center, 75 Muscatine Public School and Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School teachers submitted entries for the program.  Stanley Center used a random computer selection process to narrow the field to 15 entries which were then asked to submit a comprehensive application including curriculum ideas about how the teacher will use the experience in the classroom.  Two finalists were selected after an extensive review process.

The Stanley Center for Peace and Security partners with people, organizations, and the greater global community to drive policy progress in three issue areas – avoiding the use of nuclear weapons, mitigating climate change, and preventing mass violence and atrocities.  The center was created in 1956 by C. Maxwell and Elizabeth Stanley of Muscatine and maintains its independence while developing forums for diverse perspectives and ideas. To learn more about the center’s recent publications, upcoming events and past Catherine Miller Explorer Awards winners, visit