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Student Teachers Travel Down Under

By Ben Jipson
UW-RF News Bureau

OCT. 9, 2006--Last summer, a group of 13 student teachers from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls traveled to Australia for a eight-week student teaching experience led by teacher education Professor Gayle Ward, a former 30-year resident of Australia.

Student teachers included: Cassie Ludwig of St. Cloud, Minn., Kalin Richardson of St. Paul, Molly Yoch of Lake Elmo, Minn., Kristen Kopp of Maiden Rock, Katie Stigen of St. Paul, Shelby Tritz of Burlington, Tricia Cherek of Wausau, Lindsay Schlosser of Durand, Laura Braun of St. Cloud, Libby Ribar of White Bear Lake, Minn., Sara Gliniany of S. St. Paul, Micaela Kavanagh of Cedar Grove and Kate Bazan of Northfield, Minn. Accompanying the group were Ward's two children, Teagan and Harrison, and her husband, Richard, the group's appointed cook.

Teaching down under was very different, said the teachers-in-training. "The things we did over there were totally different than the techniques here," said Kavanagh, comparing teaching styles between the American and Australian classrooms.

One of the big differences is that every corner of the classroom is designed to keep students focused on productive tasks to keep them from acting inappropriately. "The kids were so polite," said Gliniany.

Teaching styles and procedures were different as well. Unlike having lesson plans set several weeks in advance, the teachers in Australia didn't make plans for the next day's class until the current class was done. The style allowed more adaptability, but for the student teachers, it was difficult to get used to at first. "It was like taking off one hat and putting on another," Kavanagh said.

            It wasn't just the children who were getting an education in the classroom. Kavanagh admitted that although she was doing the teaching, she learned just as much as she taught her students.

Each student teacher was assigned a host teacher, and the host teachers would let the student teachers run the classrooms while offering guidance along the way. According to the group, the host teachers were more than accommodating all throughout the trip. Besides being extremely helpful in the classroom, host teachers even made efforts to get to know students on a personal level outside of the classroom by inviting the students into their homes for meals or taking them on nearby sightseeing adventures. "I think we really got to see life as a local while we were there," Gliniany

Most of the eight weeks were devoted to teaching, but the group had several opportunities to tour and sightsee most of Australia. While in Queensland for the first part of the trip, students enjoyed snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and trekked into the Australian rainforest. The group then headed west through the Outback to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Rottnest Island. Other activities included seeing the ancient stromatolites, kayaking and watching a corroboree--an assembly of Aborigines singing and dancing.

Ward enjoyed herself tremendously and was proud of the students' teaching performances abroad," said Ward. "I loved that they were such outstanding student teachers at the five schools where they were placed. They impressed their cooperating teachers by their eagerness to learn new ideas about education and the Australian culture."

Most of the students are elementary education majors, but all are a part of UW-RF's Early Childhood Certification program, which is designed for students who want to teach kindergarten and pre-kindergarten.

Ribar encouraged anyone in the ECC program to take advantage of this opportunity when it is offered again. "It's an experience that you can't get in the states," she said.

Ward said she has already begun planning another student trip to Australia in two years, and interested students have started submitting applications for some time now.


Photo caption: Top row (left to right): Molly Yoch, Katie Stigen, Kate Bazan, Laura Braun, Lindsay Schlosser, Kristen Kopp and Cassie Ludwig. Bottom row (left to right): Sara Gliniany, Kalin Richardson, Libby Ribar, Shelby Tritz and Micaela Kavanagh. Not Pictured: Tricia Cherek.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:07:38 Central Daylight Time


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