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Local education zips across the globe and back

River Falls School Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, seated far left and UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen, center, were among those shown from a recent trip to China that included a delegation from the UWRF College of Education & Professional Studies, and faculty, staff and student teachers from Zhejiang International Studies University in Hangzhou, China. To the right of Westerhaus is Brad Caskey, UWRF dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. To the right of Caskey is Larry Solberg, UWRF dean of t...

Some classes in River Falls next school year will have student teachers representing an ancient culture and the most populated country in the world.

More than 20 college-age Chinese students from Zhejiang International Studies University are expected to spend a few hours each Friday in the River Falls School District.

Superintendent Tom Westerhaus, just back from China with a UW-River Falls delegation to seal the deal, said the Chinese student teachers will arrive in August.

They will stay in UWRF dorms and take a 16-credit load of classes per semester that includes a two-credit "practicum" of student teaching in the district's elementary schools.

The practicum also requires the Chinese student teachers to complete assignments and reports about their experiences at the River Falls schools.

Westerhaus said not all details are settled. Local teachers will be recruited to see who would like to have the Chinese-student teachers in their classrooms.

With Spanish -- the school district's "world language" -- set to expand next year to kindergarten, first and second grade, Westerhaus would like to see the Chinese student teachers in grades three, four, five and possibly sixth -- in China, grade six is an elementary school grade.

Regardless of the final setup, Westerhaus said the presence of Chinese student teachers is helpful and exciting.

"This adds another component of global citizenship to the curriculum, which is part of our district's Strategic Planning," he said. "We can't just deal with our one city and state -- this brings in new faces, races, another diverse culture."

Westerhaus said the Chinese student teachers, ranging in age from 18-21, will have three phases to their classroom work: 1) To observe, especially in the beginning, and learn how local classrooms function; 2) Assist the teacher as needed; 3) When ready, talk to River Falls students about Chinese culture and introduce them to Mandarin (the dominant dialect in China).

Chinese student teachers will only be with one River Falls teacher per semester. They're expected to put in 30 hours a semester of work in the elementary classrooms.

"Having these students here from another country could also be a draw in the future for young families who are looking to move to River Falls and seeing what the local school district has to offer," Westerhaus said. "It speaks to what this district can offer parents about preparing their children for a rapidly changing world."

For more, see the complete story in the April 18 print edition of the River Falls Journal.