Quality Facilities and Technology Impress International Visitors

For the second time in recent weeks, a CVESD school hosted international visitors who were interested in learning more about education in the United States. EastLake Elementary hosted 10 teachers from Daegu, South Korea on Aug. 16 who wanted to discover and grow from the teaching philosophy and instructional strategies in local schools. The visit was coordinated though San Diego State University’s American Language Institute.

EastLake Principal Eric Banatao, Ed.D., said the visit was an opportunity to showcase his staff’s teaching practices. For the South Korean teachers, some of whom teach English in their country, the visit provided a window into Language Arts instruction in an English-speaking country.

“The staff at EastLake was extremely excited to host our visitors,” Dr. Banatao said. “It is a way to demonstrate our school pride. It is a way to all learn from each other and have this international connection. The visit was a great exchange of ideas and observations.”  

In South Korea, students receive 200 days of instruction. Dr. Banatao shared how CVESD’s instructional calendar is 180 days, and how important it is to make the best use of each day, especially as we have fewer instructional minutes than at schools in other countries.

CVESD recently hosted visiting educators from China, who toured Arroyo Vista Charter School. At EastLake, a California Distinguished School, the Dual Immersion Program was a focus of discussion. “They walked away reciting masculine and feminine forms of Spanish phrases learned in one of our first grade classrooms,” Dr. Banatao said.

The South Korean teachers were impressed by EastLake’s facilities, such as the grade-level collaboration rooms that are built into the center of each campus building. They described smaller play areas and smaller campus footprints, in general, in South Korea. Campuses there are built upwards so that a school is typically a three- or four-story building.

“We have classrooms with just desks and chairs,” said Sunghee Lim, a middle school teacher. “We don’t have room for group activity or computers. I envy you the facilities. I can see that the students really study hard with their teachers and with their own friends in their (classroom) groups.”

At her middle school, Lim moves from class to class after each period, not the students. “I need my own room so I can decorate with my materials and students’ work,” Lim said wistfully. “I really like that I can see (EastLake) students’ work on the walls.”

The visiting teachers mentioned that room constraints don’t allow for a technology center in each classroom.  Conversely, they liked seeing up to 4-6 computers per classroom at EastLake.  Another interesting fact shared was that by 6th grade, students and teachers in South Korea are responsible for 13 distinct subject areas. Music, art, and ethics instruction are part of their regular national curriculum. 

“One thing we all recognized was our enjoyment of being around students and seeing students learn,” Dr. Banatao said. “They were excited to talk to our terrific students, ask questions, and meet our wonderful teachers. Our school community was very proud to host our South Korean visitors. One of our classrooms learned to say ‘hello’ in Korean. Our students also recognized that the Korean symbol system was very different from our own alphabet, yet our visitors could also write and convert Korean symbols/phrases to words and letters that looked like our alphabet too.

“We learned a lot about the different ways to communicate with symbols and letters, but we quickly realized that our shared smiles were universal.”

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