The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 5, 2010

Turkmenistan teachers visit CCHS, co-teach World Cultures class

Visiting teachers from Turkmenistan get a lesson in Colonial history at the Old North Bridge in Concord. (Courtesy photo)

For 12 days, a group of educators from Turkmenistan have been visiting Massachusetts and continuing to build the relationship with their sister-school, Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). Besides touring the area, the Turkmen visitors have been co-teaching in classrooms. On Thursday, October 28, Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester came to CCHS and addressed the group, lending his support to the international relationship.

The Turkmenistan connection began in 2008, when CCHS English teacher Dr. David Nurenberg was chosen by the U.S. State Department to visit Turkmenistan as part of a program to foster communication between the countries. Since then, a sister-school relationship has flourished with Balkanabat School #17 under Nurenberg’s care. This is the third fall that two students from that school have come to spend a semester at CCHS. Last spring, a handful of CCHS teachers and administrators went to Turkmenistan and exchanged educational practices with teachers from School #17 and the Turkmen Department of Education. The teachers from each country found much common ground and all benefited from the trip (see “The CCHS-Turkmenistan connection deepens,” Mosquito, April 2.)

This fall the Turkmen educators toured Boston and the State House, where they saw the legislature in action. The Turkmen group split up between CCHS and Charlestown High School. At CCHS, the visitors toured the facility, the radio station, observed classes, co-taught classes and viewed extracurricular activities. They also visited Concord elementary schools and local sights. Each stayed with a host family.

Educators from Turkmenistan share impressions

When asked about their experiences here, they had much to say. “It is interesting for me to see differences with my own eyes. I learn new teaching methods,” said Bagtygul Shirjanova. She saw students break into small groups to work on specific assignments. She toured the language lab at CCHS. “I have a lab room, but we have no computers in the language lab, just headphones. There are more opportunities to learn languages here.” There are computers in School #17, just not in their language lab. She marveled at CCHS students’ technology skills.

Liliya Rojepova, a Russian teacher from Turkmenistan, said she will definitely use the new teaching methods in her classroom. “Teachers are very creative and talented here.” She appreciated differentiated instruction and thought this was a major advantage for students. She was also impressed by the variety of extracurricular activities and how late they go into the evening. In Turkmenistan, students leave school and then go to different places to participate in art and music activities. She pointed out, “We share the same responsibility. As teachers, we have to bring up students. It is good to share this experience.”

Shasenem Orazgulyeva said, “As a chemistry teacher, I am impressed by the chemistry lab and technology. Your ActivBoards are very helpful to teachers and very useful to students. Students learn better visually.”

Rojepova praised the organization of the trip. “The schedule is well-organized. First, we were shown some history, some culture, we saw people [in Boston]. We did not strictly come to school.” Raisova enjoyed touring the State House, seeing the paintings there that depicted historical events and old flags, one from revolutionary times. Rojepova has enjoyed cooking with and being entertained by her host family. “I have never felt homesick. We don’t have time.”

Several of the group commented on the many friendships they had made since coming to America. “One of our goals is to build the bridges of friendship,” said Raisova. She said she hasn’t felt lonely here. She said teachers and students have been helpful. Another goal, she said, was to break down stereotypes. “Our time here has been priceless.” She has enjoyed the cultural exchange and seeing the daily lives of Americans. Irina Selestrova said David Nurenberg was her first American friend and now she has many. “Even though there is an ocean between our countries, we have been able to form a friendship between our countries,” said Raisova.

Nurenberg said the biggest goal of the program is to make friendships. He feels it does a lot of good to make friendships around the world. “We are all doing good work. I’m better personally for it.”

The Commissioner of Education praised the international exchange and said he is quite happy to make this connection and be a part of it. “It is the first time I have been to Concord-Carlisle High School and I am very impressed.” He talked about the importance of this exchange program and said he supported it. He has been involved with earlier exchange programs with Russia and China.

Foreign language teacher Sophia Rovitti shows off the CCHS language lab to Turkmen visitor Aygul Aranova.
(Courtesy photo)

Orazgulyeva said, “We are very proud to be the first participants of this teacher-exchange. We feel very lucky.” All the visitors gave a loud round of applause for Nurenberg and Dr. Tom Curtin, both of whom worked to organize the exchange.

“Our work is now to get home and give this information out in an interesting way so everyone can share our American experience,” said Rajepova. She feels that in doing this, everyone else will become interested in America.

Orazgulyeva said, “This is a very successful program. We can see this by our students who have returned [from their semester here]. She said the exchange students are very popular back home because of their knowledge of America. They make other students want to learn English and also participate in the program. We would like this exchange program to continue.” Rojepova agreed, “The program is invaluable.”

The Turkmen group said they are waiting impatiently for CCHS students to visit in April.

Guest educator co-teaches World Cultures using Russian, with CCHS teacher translating

Several Turkmen teachers came to CCHS Social Studies Teacher Melissa Carr’s World Cultures class. This class of freshmen has been studying the Silk Road, which went from China through Turkmenistan. Irina Selestrova spoke in Russian about the Great Silk Route which was founded by a Chinese Emperor in 108 B.C. As she spoke, Carr, who is fluent in Russian, interpreted her words for the class. It was extraordinary to have the two women teach the class seamlessly.

Selestrova explained that the route started in China and led to Central Asia, the north African coast and to Europe. She pointed out that Turkmenistan’s history was 2,500 years old. Turkmenistan has been defined as the fifth civilization of the world by UNESCO. Selestrova had many interesting facts about Turkmenistan, what was traded along the Silk Road and how it was traded. For instance, she explained that Turkmenistan is known for its rugs and jewelry. The other visiting teachers also contributed to the discussion. The class saw a DVD of Turkmenistan which highlighted its capital city, Ashgabat, some of the country’s natural wonders, some of its culture, including some traditional dances and a Disney-like amusement park.

On Election Day, Town Clerk Charlene Hinton noted that two visitors from Turkmenistan came to Town Hall. One was a teacher who was staying with Greg Peterson. One was an exchange student who was interested in seeing how many people voted. “It was nice to be able to show that and be able to show them our process,” said Hinton.

The Turkmen teachers left for home on November 3. ∆

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