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Models of Innovation visit to Monroe, NC
January 8, 2013

Anabeth Tomalis greets me in her kindergarten classroom at Sun Valley Elementary, where we learned more about their Language Immersion Program called Splash.

It's always uplifting to visit schools and see first-hand how educational initiatives are actually working in classrooms. I had one of those opportunities before the holidays at Sun Valley Elementary School in Union County where the focus is on global education, a key to making certain our North Carolina students graduate ready for real-world success.

The event was the second Models of Innovation roundtable sponsored by the North Carolina Business Committee for Education, the State Board of Education and NCDPI. The aim is to create opportunities where our business and education leaders come together with a focus on innovation. We're striving to find ways to replicate what's working well in these innovative hotspots and efficiently introduce those programs and ideas into other schools.

Just as we saw in April at the first Models of Innovation roundtable in Duplin County's Kenansville Elementary School, there is good innovation out there worthy of replicating.

This recent roundtable was co-sponsored by Global Schools Network, an international education partnership of schools and organizations committed to ensuring that students excel in an international world. Every day we are advocating creative ways to better prepare our students to compete in a global society, to be able to collaborate and communicate with their international protégés. Programs like Global Schools Network and its coordinating partner, VIF International Education, which brings visiting teachers from around the world to U.S. classrooms, help tremendously in that effort.

Seeing some of the results up close was a wonderful opportunity. Our 20-some attendees were invigorated by the staff we met and the parent/teacher organization reps who greeted us, by the outstanding leadership of Dr. Terri Cooper, principal, and Dr. Mary Ellis, Union County Public Schools' superintendent, by some thought-provoking discussion, but especially by the three classrooms we toured. (Please take a moment to view the short video that accompanies this post for a brief glimpse of some of what we saw.)

We started in Vanessa Martinez's kindergarten classroom, where this native of Barranquilla, Colombia, is leading a Language Immersion Program – Splash – with assistance from Elba Petraza, also a native Spanish speaker. The young students met us with big smiles and little bags of treats. Young Anabeth Tomalis, wearing a version of a sombrero, personally escorted me to one of those tiny chairs we all remember from elementary school. Once we all settled in, the bilingual students robustly recited the alphabet in both English and Spanish, speaking in strong, confident voices. They also serenaded us.

Next, Kaylee Whitelaw of the UK welcomed us to her classroom with "tea and biscuits." Her students shared a video on some of their favorite discoveries of "all things British." For instance, one young man brought in a London-style, double-decker, red bus he found amid his cache a toy cars at home. He placed it in the classroom sharing corner.

We were delighted when Whitelaw's students sang "London Bridge" for us; incidentally, we noticed they were singing with a British accent as you'll hear in the video clip. Adorable.

Lastly, we were treated to a play by students, complete with special sound effects, in a class led by Richard Ramos of the Philippines. They ended with a rousing rendition of "It's a Small World" sung in Tagalog, the native Filipino language.

This visit reminded us all that it is indeed a small world quite different from the world these youngsters' parents and grandparents knew. It's our job to prepare them. What a delightful challenge, and how fortunate we are here in North Carolina to be doing that with excellent teachers, great schools and business partners eager to rise to that challenge.

  • Models of Innovation, Sun Valley Elementary
    (mov, 11.5mb)

  • Models of Innovation, Sun Valley Elementary Transcript
    (pdf, 37kb)


 

 

 

June St. Clair Atkinson
State Superintendent