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By Shelagh Peden
A group of Concordia student teachers were given a rare opportunity to practice what they’ve been learning in mid-December, when the Lester B. Pearson School Board opened the doors of Riverdale High School, in Pierrefonds, to 113 Grade 9 students from Japan.
The visit was part of the school board's international studies program. For the Japanese students, from Hakodate LaSalle Junior High School, in Hokkaido, it's part of the curriculum in Grade 9 to visit another country and experience a new culture.
The Concordia students were in a variety of education programs: Early Childhood and Elementary Education (ECEE), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), or Child Studies.
Larysa Yourcheniuk came from New Jersey to study ECEE at Concordia. She enjoyed the practical experience and tips from teachers. Her only regret was that the visit to Riverdale High was too short. “Two or three weeks would have been better.”
Sabrina D’Iorio was brimming with excitement. Unlike the rest of the Concordians, who were considered student teachers, she was given the opportunity to actually teach the class herself. Education students don’t often get such an opportunity.
The visiting students were scattered throughout classes ranging from Secondary II to V (Grades 8 to 11). There was no way they could keep up with the curriculum in English, but they were encouraged to try.
The Concordia student teachers also tried to keep the Riverdale students focused on their own studies. Some students kept a second notebook in class to make note of Japanese phrases and words.
The whirlwind week was capped with an assembly in the auditorium. Carol Mastantuono, of the school board's International Studies Program, reported that the high school students said the week flew by, and “Riverdale rocked this week.”
Board chairman Marcus Tabachnick noted with gratitude that some of the Concordians gave up valuable study time during the final exam period and even turned down part-time job opportunities to volunteer. The experience provided skills, new friendships and most importantly, “a possible live audition” for future employment.