KEARNEY — Park Elementary School Principal Katie Mathews will have an international perspective after participating in a global exchange.
Mathews was awarded a fellowship from the American Council for International Education through the U.S. Department of State.
The fellowship will allow Mathews to travel to Thailand next summer.
“We’re becoming such a global economy, and understanding other cultures is really very critical to helping prepare our students for the global economy,” Mathews said.
The Educational Seminar: 2011-2012 Thailand Educator Exchange Program is an exchange opportunity for American and Thai school educators. The program provides a short-term professional development opportunity for American and Thai educators to share their best practices.
Thai educators spend three weeks in U.S. schools with their American partners, and the American educators travel to their partners’ schools in Thailand for two weeks the following summer.
Sanchai Chanidsa, director of education at Udomthunyapaprach School in Thailand, also was awarded the fellowship and spent the past three weeks in Kearney.
Chanidsa stayed with the Mathewses and spent time learning about American public schools by shadowing Mathews at Park.
“It has been so interesting to see our culture, our values, our education system through the eyes of someone from Asia,” Mathews said.
“Since I have been here at Park School, I have many great experience,” Chanidsa said in a thick accent. He traveled with a translator.
Student engagement is more prevalent at Kearney Public Schools than at Thai schools, he said. More resources and technology are available to support student education.
“In Thailand, many schools are without resources and technology,” he said.
Positive reinforcement and empowerment also are used more at KPS than in Chanidsa’s Thai school.
The principal at an American school is more accountable, he noted.
In Thailand, principals are not allowed to observe classes. Principals only meet with teachers before or after class, he said.
Chanidsa also visited Kearney High School, middle schools and other elementary schools.
The students at Park have benefited from Chanidsa’s visit to Kearney.
“They could not wait to meet Sanchai,” Mathews said.
Older students researched Thai culture and gave presentations in every class.
Chanidsa spoke to each class at Park after he arrived.
“The children had so many questions,” Mathews said.
In addition to learning about the education system in America, Chanidsa experienced some local traditions.
“I’m happy because my host Katie and her husband and her son and her daughter is very kind and very good to me,” Chanidsa said.
Mathews took Chanidsa to a Storm Hockey game, the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument, the St. Libory Pumpkin Patch, a farm in St. Paul and the Classic Car Museum.
Chanidsa participated in a fourth-grade social studies project making Nebraska maps using dough and saw the KHS musical “All Shook Up.”
He also met with Nebraska Commissioner of Education Roger Breed, Kearney Mayor Stan Clouse and KPS Superintendent Brian Maher.
Chanidsa had breakfast with Gov. Dave Heineman, first lady Sally Ganem, Lt. Gov. Rick Sheehy and his wife, Connie. Chanidsa toured the governor’s mansion and attended the Husker game against Michigan State University.
Chanidsa even dressed as a warrior for a Halloween party at the Mathews’ house.
Mathews will stay with Chanidsa when she travels to Thailand next summer.
The Educational Seminar Programs are funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries around the world.