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Latvian Educators

Latvian Educators Visit Jefferson County Schools
Posted on 09/05/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Latvian Educators Visit Jefferson County SchoolsSix Latvian educators visited two JEFCOED schools, Bryan Elementary and Pinson Valley High Friday, August 25. There were four teachers, one principal, and one Minister of Culture executive cabinet member comparable to the US Secretary of Education, Dr. Aija Tuna. Their visit was under the auspices of the US Department of State and their handler was Annette Philpo’t from Huntsville. Two interpreters Renate Gravers and Gundega Aboltina made the language barrier more negotiable. The trip’s purpose was to explore what a rural elementary school and a high school do in America to promote tolerance, acceptance, and programs that are anti-bullying.
Each school visit was an hour. At Bryan, they heard a month by month accounting of what the school does to involve the community, then a quick tour of the school including the STEAM lab, hearing kindergarteners read to the dog Aria, and a quick visit with the many parent volunteers who were in the school. Visitors wanted to know if Bryan was a typical rural school. Principal Debra Campbell reiterated, “Our community works together to make it a great school and local businesses, parents, grandparents and that traditions of excellence ran deeply within the community.”
The educators had done research about Pinson Valley and wanted to see the Newcomers Club which welcomes warmly all ELL students who are learning English as a second language. They saw Rachel Reyes put students who were club members through their paces in language and math and explained the cross cultural learning that the Newcomers Club promotes for students. ESL, Cindy Ponder, was along to explain more details about individual attention needed by students. Next the educators visited Lensey King’s engaging industrial maintenance class and Cindy Ponder saw two students she had taught in third grade. They met the lunchroom staff by a walk-through and were serenaded by the new choir teacher Sarah Timothy’s class.
As a special send-off, JefCoEd hosts took the group to Ken’s BBQ restaurant near Center Point High School where the group enjoyed hushpuppies, fried okra, catfish, and pork BBQ along with buttermilk. They like rubbing elbows and eating with ordinary Alabamians and hearing their laughter and conversation from other restaurant guests. The Latvian educators promised to return for round two of their visit.