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Your Schools: Expanding the horizons of today's youth

As you might already know, our River Falls Leads: 2010-15 Strategic Plan contains Strategy three, states, "We will instill in every student a respect for our world and its resources so they become responsible and productive global citizens."

To that end, our district has been engaged with the Education Department at UW-River Falls since last fall in planning and developing a partnership that involves university Chinese students from ZISU University in Hangzhou, China, attending UWRF for one year to learn how to teach elementary school in China.

The program is rigorous for the Chinese students, as they will be enrolled in 16 credits each semester of the year they're here.

Starting next school year, approximately 25 second and third year Chinese college students will be enrolled at UWRF and will participate in a classroom practicum in one of our River Falls elementary schools under the supervision of our current elementary teachers.

A visit by Chinese officials from Hangzhou to our district on December 13, 2012, where they met with administrators and our school board president and toured the central office, Greenwood, Meyer Middle School, and River Falls High School, resulted in ZISU being very pleased with our district and interested in having their students become involved with the School District of River Falls.

While the details of the program have yet to be finalized, it appears that students from China will work one day per week in elementary classrooms, observing our instructional practices, assisting teachers and students, and teaching our students about Chinese culture and language as they are able.

Chinese officials at ZISU are anxious for this program to begin in September, and so a delegation led by UWRF Chancellor Van Galen, is visiting Hangzhou this week during spring break to formalize the agreement between the university institutions.

Chinese officials have asked that as superintendent, I be in attendance to formalize the agreement to have their students do practicums in our buildings next fall. So, spring break this year won't be at the beach, but instead will found me boarding the plane on Monday morning, March 26, along with UWRF Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, Larry Solberg, to arrive in Shanghai on Tuesday, March 27.

We will head by bullet train to ZISU for three days of meetings and ceremonies in Hangzhou, returning to Shanghai for our return trip back home to Wisconsin late on Easter Sunday, March 31.

More details of the program for the elementary schools will be available after these meetings, so that they in turn are able to keep parents informed and interested staff engaged this spring with the project before we end the current school year. Continue to watch for more details as this exciting opportunity for our district's students to connect with future educators from half way around the world in China becomes clearer.

This three-way partnership has the potential of literally shrinking our world for our 21st century learners through real-life global education. To me, that's certainly EVERYBODY'S BUSINESS!