Teacher from Germany makes memorable impact
by Celia Shortt
Moreland Elementary School teacher Janey Allen brought more with her this school year than just her experience as a special education teacher when she joined Moreland's staff.
She also brought a student teacher from Germany who has become an important part of the Moreland Elementary community in her seven weeks at the school.
'I was invited by her to be an intern at Poplar Road,' said Anika Huter, a graduate student at the University of Oldenburg who is working on her master's degree. 'Her class was cut [in Germany]. So I came with her here.'
Huter grew up in a small German village, and since the 10th grade, has long hoped to be a special education teacher.
'We had special education kids in our little village,' she said. 'I grew up being with these kids and having fun. Since 10th grade, I have wanted to be a special education teacher.'
Germany, unlike the U.S., has only just began incorporating inclusion classes for special education students. The U.S. has been practicing this method of education for much longer. Inclusion classes are those with both special education students and traditional students learning alongside each other.
Huter wanted to study those classes for her master's thesis - to see if the special education students were really included. Huter's thesis is on American inclusion classrooms and the differences it makes in a special-needs child's educational experience.
Huter's research includes questions and activities to verify that special education students are included in activities with traditional students and in what ways.
'I asked each student four questions about who they did homework with, played with, and studied with,' she said. 'For younger students, I asked who they read books with - things like that.'
From those answers and specific activities which studied how the students included each other, Huter found successful results in her research.
'I wanted to find out if they were really included,' she said. 'And they are really included. For example, students play with them at recess and at home.'
'My research shows inclusion works,' she added. 'I am going to take it back to Germany and use it there.'
Huter also gave German lessons to the students.
'One special needs student with many challenges has learned to speak German and has learned German numbers,' said Moreland Elementary School Principal Melanie Perry. 'He is more fluent in German than in English.'
Both Perry and Allen are sad to see her go, but are glad that she was able to start off the school year at Moreland Elementary.
'We're going to miss her so much,' said Allen. 'She did great. The kids are going to really miss her. They love her so much.'
'She's been like a jewel for us,' said Perry. 'Her classroom management and teaching the kids about other cultures, it's just been great.'
Huter is also sad to go, but is thankful for the experience and happy with what she was able to accomplish.
'I'd like to thank Mrs. Allen, Ms. Perry, Ms. Cross, the staff, and the teachers,' she said. 'It's been a great experience.'
'Other than friends and the people I met, I will miss the weather,' she added with a smile.
Huter will return to Germany and begin school in October. She has two more semesters of school before she can start teaching. Once the two semesters are completed, she will have student teaching for 18 months and then receive her teaching certificate.