Team Captain John Bierbaum on Cultural Outreach
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I have been asked, along with the help of McLean County Unit Five Teacher's Union President Vickie Mahrt and Vice President and teacher Carl Goeke, to plan, coordinate and implement an itinerary for the teachers from Costa Rica that will provide a taste of what’s happening in schools throughout McLean County.
As a very proud educator in a county that is chalked full of great schools, teachers, and students; it is my pleasure to showcase some of the classroom and administrative happenings in McLean County.
Spanish speakingparents calling into the main office of Normal West High School (NWHS), are quickly transferred to Assistant Principal Dr. Margaret Egebrecht, who is fluent in Spanish. Often visiting teachers from other countries do not get a chance to truly have discourse about their
experiences due to language barriers and I have learned from this.
Right off the bat, I am working with Dr. Egebrecht who will provide a "language friendly" and personalized tour of NWHS for our Costa Rican friends.
The teachers will be visiting high school classrooms and observing classes related to their content interest in Costa Rica. Following their observations, Dr. Egebrecht will meet with our guests along with Mr. David Hirst, a Spanish teacher who has lived and worked in Costa Rica, to facilitate a discussion over lunch about their experiences as well as, answer questions
they may have and discuss insights they yet hope to gain.
As wisdom informs, if you want to know the truth – ask the kids. Further, if you want teenagers to talk to you for an extended period of time - provide food.
So, several of Mr. Hirst’s Spanish students will be invited to this luncheon to provide a teenage perspective to the teachers regarding high school life in America. This is going to be a great experience for all involved and similar interactions are being planned at the junior high and elementary school levels - college visits are being planned separately.
Last February, teachers in Costa Rica went on strike to protest government cutbacks and the failure to pay previously agreed upon pay raises. While teacher strikes are not common in McLean County, such experiences resonate with teachers in this area who have recently or will soon be negotiating contracts within their districts. Vickie Mahrt, Carl Goeke, and
I will meet our visiting teachers for a social gathering with educators from across McLean County to "talk shop".
No matter what line of work you are in, it is easy to get wrapped up in the problems, issues, and challenges related to any particular job. An opportunity to exchange notes with professionals doing the same work in very different locations can be refreshing and I foresee much to compare, contrast, and discuss related to the issues that encompass teaching and
learning in the U.S. and Costa Rica.
I wonder if we might find much more common ground than difference as a result of our interactions.
Through school tours, classroom observations, interactions with students and teachers, plus an evening social outing; we will come together to examine and discuss our experiences as we celebrate the McLean County Diversity Project’s mission statement: "to foster a functional and rational acceptance of the differences that reside in us all".
Velocidad máxima hacia adelante!
- John "Jeremiah" Bierbaum
Veteran Team Captain
McLean County Diversity Project
McLean County Diversity Project c/o Jeffrey A. Schwartz 16043 Dorado Road Bloomington, IL 61705