High School Amazes Austrian Teachers

Article excerpt

A group of Austrian teachers who visited Glenbard North High School during the past few weeks are heading home loaded with ideas to improve their schools.

"Our students like to be entertained," said Waltraud Mayr, an English teacher in Innsbruck.

She was amazed to see how often students at the Carol Stream school contribute in class.

"Here, it seems students start at an earlier age to feel responsible for their education," she said.

Mayr and 39 other teachers from Austria visited several area high schools this month to learn more about the American school system.

Eight of them went to Glenbard North, staying with host teachers in their homes.

"A teacher in the U.S. has a lot to do and a lot of responsibility with very short breaks," said Hermann Paschinger, an economics teacher at a tourism school near Vienna. "I was very tired by the end of the day."

Part of the reason, however, was spending the entire day thinking and speaking in English, he said.

Yet he was thrilled to improve his conversational skills, because one of the goals of the exchange program was to encourage teachers to teach more lessons in English.

Paschinger said economics teachers at Glenbard North lent him some economics textbooks he will use when he returns to Austria.

But a better command of the English language is not all the teachers will bring back.

A highlight for Mayr was when teachers of a "middle ability" class asked students to step in and teach - complete with lesson plans.

"One student had worksheets, overhead projectors, and a power point presentation on the industrial revolution," she said. "I mean, he was only 15."

She said the student took questions and deviated from his presentation to keep his peers' interest.

Austrian students at that age would not have done that, Mayr said. "They want to use cue cards and they don't want to go off track."

After seeing how capable and independent the students at North were, she is motivated to find more creative ways to encourage her students to become more involved at a younger age. …