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Home > News > 2008 > Education Exchange

Education Exchange A Rousing Success

The Kotlas delegation behind the rostrum in the Maine House of Representatives.

The members of the Kotlas delegation stand behind the rostrum in the chamber of the House of Representatives in Augusta. From left to right: Tatyana Pyatina, Yulia Burtseva, Alyona Ursu, Yelena Vansyatskaya (the facilitator), Olga Popova, and Olga Maksimenkova.

By Carl Daiker and Ellen Corey*

On December 5, 2008, members of the Kotlas Connection welcomed five educators from the Kotlas area to Portland International Airport. The five (along with their facilitator) traveled to Maine to participate in an Open World-sponsored education exchange. Open World is a program authorized by Congress to bring emerging community leaders to the United States to observe democracy and free enterprise in action.

Prior to their arrival in Maine the delegation spent three days in Washington, D.C., attending Open World orientation sessions and recovering from jet lag. Our delegates were among approximately 50 teachers from all over Russia who came to the U.S. through the Open World program during the first week of December.

The five members of our delegation were:

  • Julia Burtseva - A mathematics teacher in Kotlas Lyceum #3 and also secretary of the school's administrative committee.
  • Olga Maksimenkova - An English teacher from the State Comprehensive School #1 in Kotlas.
  • Olga Popova - A teacher of mathematics and the methods of teaching mathematics at the Kotlas Teacher Training College.
  • Tatyana Pyatina - An English teacher from School #82 in Kotlas.
  • Alyona Ursu - A teacher of physics and computer science at the school in Privodino, a small community near Kotlas.
Alyona Ursu and Tatyana Pyatina.

At the Thanksgiving dinner, Alyona Ursu and Tatyana Pyatina read a letter to the Kotlas Connection.

During their week in the Waterville area the members of the delegation participated in a whirlwind of activities mostly related to increasing their understanding of the American educational system. Local educators also learned much about education in Russia.

On the morning of Monday, December 8, the delegation met with Waterville Superintendent of Schools Eric Haley. Later in the day they toured Waterville High School with Principal Don Reiter and then the Mid-Maine Technical Center with Director Mark Powers. That afternoon found the Russian teachers touring Waterville Junior High School with Principal Mike Roy and then attending the Waterville Board of Education's annual holiday open house for staff.

The following morning was spent with Waterville Mayor Paul LePage and Police Chief Joseph Massey. The mayor filled in the educators in on the role of the school department in city structure, the local financing of schools, and city-school cooperation. The teachers then toured the Police Department with Chief Massey. At noon, they were the guests of honor at a luncheon in the REM Forum in The Center in downtown Waterville. Some two dozen area residents attended

That afternoon each of the teachers met with local peers to learn more about the areas of education that interest them most. In the evening the delegation members returned to the REM Forum for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the Kotlas Connection's executive committee.

On Wednesday, December 10, the delegation members again got to spend some quality time with their Waterville area counterparts.

Thursday, December 11, found the teachers in Augusta where they learned more about Maine state government from representatives in the Secretary of State's office and from a tour of the State House. The afternoon was spent visiting the Maine State Museum.

Olga Maksimenkova

Olga Maksimenkova poses next to the statue of Samantha Smith outside the Maine State Library in Augusta.

Friday, December 12, was to have included a tour of the two Waterville elementary schools, but Mother Nature intervened. A snowstorm closed the schools and put the kibosh on the school visits. In the afternoon, however, the delegation toured Thomas College and met with several of the faculty members and college administrators. One of the highlights of the Thomas visit was a presentation on teacher training by members of the education faculty.

The delegation closed out the week at a pizza party at the home of Colby Russian Professor and Kotlas Connection executive committee member Sheila McCarthy, followed by a performance of The Nutcracker ballet at the Waterville Opera House.

Everyone concerned declared the exchange a profound success. In addition to the members of the Waterville area education community none of this would have been possible without the efforts of the individual members of the Kotlas Connection executive committee and their spouses and the generous financial support of the Open World Program.

*With a few minor additions by Gregor Smith

Click any photo on this page to enlarge it. All photos are by Gregor Smith.

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