First-grade teacher Julie Young Walser loved her time exploring the schools in Sweden so much that she didn’t want to leave.
Last week, she tried to give that same experience to Lena Regnander Bergh, one of 14 Swedish educators in Minneapolis as part of the annual educator exchange between the two municipalities.
Regnander Bergh stayed at Young Walser’s home and spent last Monday shadowing her at Kenwood Elementary School. She said she wanted to see how teachers organized their classrooms, how teachers relate with students and how they deal with different cultures.
“It was nice pictures everywhere,” she said, adding that it felt welcoming and child centered.
Regnander Bergh and the Swedish educators stayed with their Minneapolis contemporaries last week, visiting schools and experiencing local attractions such as Fort Snelling, Surly Brewing Company and TCF Bank Stadium. Many of the hosting Minneapolis educators either visited Uppsala this past spring or will visit in the upcoming spring.
It’s a program organizers say helps build lasting relationships and foster dialogue.
“You realize, if you didn’t already, that the world is a small place,” said former Field principal Steve Norlin-Weaver, who helps organize the trips. “You get there, and kids are kids and schools are schools, and that’s kind of cool.”
The exchange program began in 2005, several years after Minneapolis and Uppsala established their sister-city relationship. More than 200 educators from the two cities have participated in the program, Norlin-Weaver said.
The Uppsala delegation always comes in the 43rd week of the calendar year, which falls before Sweden’s autumn break. The Minneapolis delegation travels there during spring break, spending a night in Stockholm before traveling to Uppsala.
“Everyone has a great experience and would go again in a minute,” Norlin-Weaver said. Educators from both countries also said they developed closer relationships with their fellow staff members, many of whom they did not know before the program.
“It’s a local exchange and an international exchange at the same time,” said Lisa Landerhjelm, an assistant principal at a bilingual school in Uppsala.
Landerhjelm stayed with Field Community School principal VaNita Miller. She served as the Uppsala delegation leader and spent last Monday attending administration meetings, observing teachers and helping on lunch duty with Miller.
She said the program made her realize that schools in Sweden are struggling with a lot of the same questions as American schools.
“We parallel each other in terms of the struggles we have in integrating immigrants,” Norlin-Weaver said.
Young Walser, who stayed with Regnander Bergh last spring, said she was impressed how “nothing was rushed” in Uppsala’s schools.
“Everybody took frequent and meaningful breaks,” she said. “It was just so refreshing not to be rushed.”
She said the schools there were very child centered, noting that kids were entrusted to walk down to the cafeteria, clean their own eating space and walk back to class on their own. She said she was also impressed with the beauty of the classrooms, the original art in the schools and the candles in the cafeterias.
“I got so much more out of it than I ever would have expected,” she said. “The program is just invaluable.”
Nonprofit raises $212k for scholarships at Catholic schools
A Minnetonka-based foundation raised $212,000 for scholarships for students at 79 area Catholic elementary and middle schools, including eight schools in Minneapolis
The Aim Higher Foundation raised the funds at its fourth annual Night of Light celebration held Sept. 24 in Minneapolis. The funds will provide about $1,000 in scholarship money to 200 students during the 2017-18 school year.
The foundation has distributed more than 3,400 need-based scholarships to students since its inception in 2011, totaling more than $2.3 million. It is providing 735 students with scholarships for 2016-17 and will provide 930 with scholarships next school year.
The eight schools in Minneapolis are: Annunciation School, Carondelet Catholic School, Our Lady of Peace Catholic School, Pope John Paul II Catholic School, Risen Christ School, St. Charles Borromeo School and St. Helena Catholic School.
Families should contact schools directly if they are interested in learning more about the availability of scholarships. Visit aimhigherfoundation.org for more information on the Foundation and how to contribute or become involved.