OGDEN -- An experimental foreign-exchange teacher program appears to be working well for the Ogden City School District and six college students from South Korea.
Six students in the teacher education program at Gong-Ju National University in Seoul, South Korea, have been assisting in Ogden classrooms since September. The work gives them valuable teaching experience in the United States before they return home in December.
"I think this is a win-win for both parties: The district gains the services of highly capable, trained, motivated teacher assistants at no cost to the district," said Ed Jenson, program coordinator and a former Ogden High School principal.
In exchange, the college students get to live in the U.S., develop English language skills and work in an American classroom, Jenson said.
"If they have teaching experience in an American classroom, it increases their ability to get a job," said Rich Moore, an elementary director for the district.
The students are Yun Hi Chung, Jang Won Seo, Mi Hyun Yoo, Su Jung Lee, Ho Yeon Lee and Ji Eun Yoo. For the last few months they have worked at Mount Ogden Junior High, Bonneville Elementary, Horace Mann, Wasatch and Shadow Valley, performing such duties as co-teaching various subjects, tutoring, assisting, and providing general instruction.
Before qualifying to come stateside, the students were required to have studied English for at least eight years. They are hosted by local families and cover most of their own expenses. Yun Hi Chung, who works at Horace Mann, said she paid about $7,000 and every penny has been worth the experience.
"All I knew about Utah before I came was that it was a state of Mormons and national parks," said Yun Hi, who used tapes to practice speaking English for two hours a day. "The experience has helped me to have more confidence to teach."
Fifth-grade students at Horace Mann have enjoyed having Chung teach them about her country. Joseph Richey, Alacia Perrish and Selestina Chavez said she taught them how to write in Korean, along with how to sing "happy birthday" and say "hamburger" in Korean.
Shawn Hafey-Francke, a fifth-grade teacher at Horace Mann, said at Halloween, Yun Hi dressed in a traditional Korean gown and taught students about her culture. He was a little apprehensive about her coming at first because of the language barrier, but he has been most impressed with how fast she fit in and connected with the students.
"She jumped in instantly ... and students interacted well with her. She has become part of the family," Hafey-Francke said. "I think it's been interesting for the kids to see how similar we are, whether we are in the U.S. or Korea. We also talked about how difficult it would be to do the same thing in her country. It's been a good learning experience for all involved."
The Korean teachers do weekly course work with Dr. Michael Freeman, assistant dean at the College of Education at Utah State University, and have weekly instruction from Jenson, where they discuss their experiences.
Jenson said the Korean government is also very interested in what is happening with this experiment. It has provided financial support and if the program proves effective, it could be marketable.
"South Korea would like to teach many of its core subjects in English and Korean, so it's a potential means of helping the Korean government reach its goals," Jenson said.
When not in the classroom, the Koreans have traveled and spent a day at the Utah Education Association convention. Yun Hi likes to relax by surfing the Internet and spending time with her friends.
If the experiment proves as successful as Moore believes it will, as many as 15 more college students could be on their way to Ogden in February.
"When they return to their studies in Korea, this experience will be a powerful entry on their eventual rÃƒÂ©sumÃƒÂ© and be an advantage to them in hiring for a teaching job," said Jenson, who has served missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Korea. "They will be great teachers in the years to come, and this experience, in and out of the classroom, will have made a difference to them."