Exchange students foster global education at NAPLS
One objective of the New Albany-Plain Local School District's strategic plan is to give students "the awareness and competence to succeed in a global society."
This school year, New Albany High School students learned about other countries and cultures from four exchange students, and kindergartners learned about Finland from a Finnish student teacher.
"We're looking to expand our global studies, which is strategy No. 9 in our strategic plan, and improve the international opportunities for our students," Superintendent April Domine said.
In past years, the district invited only two exchange students in one school year. In 2011, the school board approved a new policy allowing up to 10 each year.
This year, the high school hosted Johannes Axt, 17, and Janine Mueller, 18, of Germany; Cyril Zufferey, 18, of Switzerland; and Priscilla Nakaie, 17, of Brazil.
The exchange students met with the school board April 23. Axt was honored as a foreign exchange student of the year by Beth Shaeffer, Central Ohio area director of the Forte International Exchange Association.
Axt's host mother, Kathy Hamlin, said he received straight A's in school, attended many school events and was outspoken in his views.
Axt said the exchange students wanted to give something back to the New Albany students who had welcomed them, so in March, they gave presentations about their home countries. Axt said 250 students attended and many stayed after to talk about the foreign exchange program.
Mueller said being in the U.S. gave her more confidence and she said she has made several new international friends.
Zufferey said he will be sad at the end of the school year.
"We're at a great school in a great city," he said. "The teachers are good and they care about you and want to help you."
The school board also received a report from Martta Laaksonen, the student teacher from Finland. Domine said Laaksonen had approached the district and asked if they accepted foreign student teachers. She said Laaksonen is the first foreign teacher hosted by the district.
Laaksonen taught in Amanda Peters' kindergarten classroom.
She said schools in Finland are different: kindergartners focus on play, not academics. Academic instruction begins in first grade, and after every 45 minutes of instruction, students are given a 15-minute break. Foreign-language education starts in third grade and by eighth grade, students can choose to study more than one language.
She also said Finland does less testing than the U.S., she said.
Domine said district officials hope to continue hosting students and teachers from other countries, possibly as part of the introduction of Mandarin Chinese classes this fall.
The district is working on a partnership with a school in Harbin, China, which could provide teacher and student exchanges, she said.