Amelia Davis is an OHIO senior from Mason, Ohio, who makes a special visit to a kindergarten class at East Elementary every Friday during the school year and teaches Spanish as part of Ohio University’s Foreign Language in the Schools Program.
Photographer: Gretchen Gregory
East Elementary kindergarten student Annamarie Montle writes her answer on a clipboard as part of a game designed to help her class learn to say weather-related words in Spanish.
Photographer: Gretchen Gregory
OHIO senior Amelia Davis explains how to say storm cloud in Spanish.
Photographer: Gretchen Gregory
May 7, 2014
By Gretchen Gregory
When Athens native Teresa Montle moved from the country and into the city of Athens three years ago, it was so her young daughter Annamarie could attend East Elementary and experience a more diverse student population. The diverse environment is created largely in part by Ohio University, she believes.
“We wanted Annamarie to experience that diversity, and it’s because of the University,” Montle said. “It’s a completely different world of what she experiences versus the school where I went where it was common to know everyone from kindergarten through graduation. It’s a whole eye-opening experience she’s gained here. She’s learning that not all countries are the same and not all religions are the same. It’s amazing how much she learns at East.”
A handful of students in her daughter’s class have international parents who teach at OHIO, she noted, and Annamarie is learning about different cultures every day. Teaching indiscriminately within an environment that forges culturally-aware students is held in high esteem at East Elementary, a place where a holiday party is held rather than a Christmas party, and egg baskets are made instead of Easter baskets.
“At 5, I didn’t think I could really expose her to different religions at such a young age, but we’ve had conversations about Christmas and Easter,” Montle said. “She asks why some classmates don’t get Christmas gifts and we talk about it. It’s little things like that that matter. It’s making everybody comfortable in that situation. They’re still in Athens and still in America, but they’re celebrating in a little different way, to respect everyone’s different cultures.”
East Elementary also hosts a variety of cultural programs, including the annual International Food Fair each spring in which families create dishes from their different cultures. “We get entertainment to provide dancing, so students can try the different cultures and see dances,” said East Elementary Principal Claire Giardino.
Giardino said such diversity has led the school district to host a program at East Elementary to aid students who speak English as a second language. “We have an English-as-a-second-language certified teacher and she works with children in the middle school, high school and elementary,” she explained.
Learning a foreign language at East Elementary
Amelia Davis is an OHIO senior from Mason, Ohio, who makes a special visit to Annamarie’s class every Friday during the school year and teaches Spanish as part of the University’s Foreign Language in the Schools Program.
Davis is majoring in Spanish education and designs a curriculum each week that teaches students in a fun and interesting way to keep them engaged. “Since they’re only 6, they’re not afraid to sound goofy or silly and they say whatever I want them to say and they learn another language. It’s amazing to see them learn how to pronounce the words,” Davis said.
During a recent visit to the class, Davis showed students cardboard cutouts that represented the weather, and played games to help them learn weather words in Spanish.
“Her lessons are very age appropriate, interesting to the children, and interactive for them,” said Annamarie’s kindergarten teacher Susan Holsapple, who has taught in Southeastern Ohio for 31 years. “They benefit from her expertise, and are at an age that they will learn a foreign language easier.”
Holsapple said her students have started saying gracias at snack time in addition to saying thank you in English.
Teaching students a different language often leads to discussions about why people have different cultures, Holsapple noted. “It contributes to our understanding of other cultures and countries in the world,” she said.
“Annamarie benefits from the class,” Montle said. “She knows so much in Spanish and really seems to want to continue to learn. She talks about Spanish time at school and always looks forward to Fridays.”
Ohio University’s approach to engage students in a diverse, transformational learning environment where knowledge and ideas are formulated in the classroom is steeping into the community, and is affecting the lives of Appalachians in Southeastern Ohio, including 5-year-old Annamarie Montle.
Not only is the University committed to being the nation’s best transformative learning community, where students realize their promise, faculty advance knowledge, staff achieve excellence and alumni become global leaders, but Ohio University actively engages in fostering student educational opportunities while simultaneously impacting the local and global community, according to an Economic Impact Assessment.
Today, the University community includes more than 1,700 international students from more than 100 countries, in addition to the diverse faculty and staff who create a learning environment that allows students to develop skills to help them throughout their lifetimes.
Several students in the Athens City School District are sons or daughters of University faculty, staff and graduate students, according to Athens City Schools District Supt. Carl Martin.
“We have a number of students from different ethnic backgrounds, and about 80 of them are tied to the University in some manner,” said Martin. “Their parents are graduate students or professors.”
During her 22-year teaching career at East Elementary, Holsapple has seen a noticeable change in the number of international students attending East Elementary as the University attracts international students from around the globe.
“Students come from many more different countries than 22 years ago,” she noted. “When I first began teaching at East Elementary, the majority of my students were from Saudi Arabia. Over the years, East has had a much more diverse population of international students. While we do still have a high Middle Eastern population, several years ago we had an influx of students from Korea, and many more now from China. Most recently, probably over the last 12 years, I have had many more children from the African countries, in particular Kenya and Ghana.”
This special Compass series features the programs and initiatives through which Ohio University students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends are realizing their promise as they elevate lives across the region. These people-focused success stories take you behind the scenes and highlight the many meaningful ways OHIO serves society by supporting educational, economic, creative and wellness endeavors, as well as other humanitarian efforts.