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Future teachers get chance to train in classes overseas

August 16, 2004, Monday

The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune (Utah)

BYLINE: Shinika A. Sykes , The Salt Lake Tribune

Roger Arscht knew getting a Utah teacher's license requires 14 weeks of classroom training. What he didn't know was that part of his training would be in Germany.

Thanks to a newly minted partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, Westminster College students will participate in a teacher-training program in Germany. The program -- beginning this fall -- is a first for Utah.

"What Westminster is doing is providing potential teachers with another opportunity to experience something unique," said Arscht. "Not only will I get the teaching experience, I will also get the cultural experience."

Arscht and three other Westminster students will teach children of American military and civilian service personnel at a private school in Wiesbaden, Germany. The majority of students in DOD schools are English speaking.

Janet Dynak, the school of education dean, says Westminster tries to provide new teachers with broad educational training, specifically that of diverse cultures. The DOD's overseas military location is part of that effort, she said.

"This is the first group to go abroad, and we are looking to branch out into other countries so more of our students will have this opportunity," said Dynak. Plans are in the works to extend Westminster's teaching training program to England for the spring semester -- following later with semesters in southern Spain and Italy.

As a small college, Westminster cannot offer several overseas teaching programs during a semester. That's why the school will rotate among the places it sends student teachers, explained Dynak.

"We want to see where our stronger partnership lies," she said.

Some 70 to 80 people get their teacher's license training at Westminster annually. They have the option of student-teaching at Utah schools for the full 14 weeks -- or 10 weeks in a local classroom and the remaining four weeks on the Navajo Reservation in Montezuma Creek.

Before coming to Utah, Dynak taught at the DOD's school in Germany for several years. The new Westminster-DOD teaching training partnership is, in part, the result of that connection.

Other than housing, the Defense Department does not provide any direct payments to the student teachers. Westminster students will pay their own living expenses while in Wiesbaden.

That's why Dynak wants everything in order for the student teachers when they arrive in Germany. She will meet there with the DOD teachers and "get everything settled." Later in the semester, a Westminster faculty member will go to observe and grade the student teachers.

Arscht says he hopes he has time for a few weekend excursions to other European cities while in Germany. Teaching will be a second career for the 44-year-old Arscht. In the past, he has been a chef and a caterer.

"It's not going to be a vacation," he said. "I will be doing the same lesson plan I would do in Utah."