Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Small Town Wisconsin High School Receives German Award

The following announcement was published by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction:
Lodi high school in Wisconsin and its partner in Germany were honored by the German government for their outstanding exchange program.
Approximately 900 German cultural exchange or cooperation programs were considered for the recognition, programs funded by the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst cultural exchange office. Three programs received monetary awards and another 10 received special recognition, including the partnership between Lodi High School and Schwalm Gymnasium in Treysa, Germany, part of the Hessen-Wisconsin High School Student Exchange.
English Teacher Sharon Easley coordinates the program. She always believed in it because “I had done a lot of traveling. My husband had been in the military, and I saw the real advantage of getting out of small town America and looking at the world.”
Ute Promberger, Easley’s counterpart in Treysa, writes that the first exchange between the schools taught them “the students needed a topic to keep them going” when visiting the partner schools--something besides merely observing school in another country.
So, when the German students come to Lodi, they learn about Native American cultures. Part of Lodi students’ German experience is visiting Buchenwald Concentration Camp, then presenting about the Holocaust back home. They remark on how powerful this is in their responses to exit surveys, like this one:
I really wish others could have an understanding of what we saw. Pictures, stories, and textbooks can’t do justice to the things that happened there like walking the same pathways that many captured, innocent people walked.... Knowing that 56,000 prisoners died at Buchenwald made unthinkable emotions run through my mind when I saw the hanging rooms, the small cells, and the crematoria.
As to how other schools could start a high quality international program, Easley says, other than having very supportive, invested school boards on each end of the partnership, “I don’t think we’re especially special, I think we’ve just put a lot of time and effort into making it happen and developing our program... I guess the magic ticket is just jumping in and doing it.”
She advises not worrying about the many things that can go wrong--they can be part of the educational process for students. Easley adds that Lodi educators would be happy to advise any district wanting to embark on a similar effort.

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