Janet Bremer put a new spin on the concept of “staycation” when she decided to make the move from her home in the American Midwest to the Republic of Panama’s City of Knowledge. She discovered Panama’s innovative learning community during the previous summer, when she and her husband vacationed in Central America. Though they didn’t realize it at the time, that visit would trigger a new phase in Janet’s professional life.
Upon their return to Ohio, the Bremers picked up the threads of their everyday lives. For Janet, that meant continuing her work with technology education. She had a long tenure as a secondary technology specialist for Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (www.chca-oh.org) and was involved in professional training and consulting work. An experienced and forward-thinking educator, Janet has been recognized for her work in education as a Macromedia Educator, an Adobe Education Leader, Cincinnati Public Media’s Teacher of the Year, and as one of Ohio’s Outstanding High School teachers. Ohio was home to the Bremers. But their brief time in Panama had left a lasting impression of both of them. It’s no wonder.
Within the capital city of the Republic of Panama lies a technology and learning community. Christened the City of Knowledge (www.ciudaddelsaber.org) by the Panamanian government, this complex is testament to the same brand of innovation and persistence that engineered the Panama Canal. After the reversion of the Canal Zone in 1999, the nation of Panama found itself with not only independent control of the Panama Canal but also ownership of Fort Clayton, the U.S. military base surrounding the canal. The base served military and U.S. civilian personnel and their families during U.S. administration of the Canal Zone. It forms a large and useful network of airports, roads, houses, community centers, and hospitals. It was proposed that the complex be dedicated to an international center for education, innovation, research, and collaboration.
The concept of transforming the base into a global city of learning was quickly embraced by the Panamanian government and business worlds. The republic organized a global think tank, undertook a massive feasibility study, and eventually ascertained that the notion of a global learning community was both possible and timely. The Knowledge Foundation was officially established, and the Republic of Panama ushered in the 21st century with a complex designed specifically to “promote and facilitate synergy between universities, scientific research centers, businesses, and international organizations.”
Today, the City of Knowledge is home to more than 40 scientific and technological businesses. Florida State University, Iowa State University, and McGill University number among the schools that have permanent learning and research centers within the complex. Global agencies, including UNICEF, the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, the World Scouting Organizations, and the United Nations have also claimed a place there. With a primary focus on information technology, environmental and health sciences, and multimodal transportation, the City of Knowledge is home to some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking minds.
“The draw of the City of Knowledge makes Panama City a truly international place,” explained Janet. “Of course, the location is beautiful. As well, it’s a city of contrasts. It’s a place where a little bit of effort can make a great difference. We werenthere long, but it made an impact on us. One day, my husband called me from his office and told me that he’d been looking around on the internet and had come across a job opening for a technology director for a small, faith-based school located in Panama City.” The school primarily serves the families of expatriates and the international business community. A curriculum modeled after the American system of education and English as the primary language of instruction eased the transition. “Those were important considerations for me,” said Janet.
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