HAZEL GREEN—The month of October was an eventful one at Southwestern Schools in Hazel Green as two visitors from Argentina toured classrooms and learned how schools operate in Wisconsin.
Claudio Roman, a high school principal at a night school geared toward the arts, and Graciela Schmidt, a superintendent of a school district, both based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, journeyed to Wisconsin to learn from the teachers and students.
Both visitors were able to make the trip through the Fulbright Scholar program. They stayed with the school’s superintendent, James Egan, who has been to Argentina twice through the Fulbright program. Twenty-four school administrators from Buenos Aires participated in the Fulbright program, which is in its second year there. They were scattered throughout the United States for a month.
“They come from a city with 3.5 million people,” Egan said. “I think they’ve handled the cultural shock very well after coming to Hazel Green, population 1,200.”
Roman said he has been to the United States before, but never to Wisconsin. He has visited larger cities before and was excited to be placed in such a rural community. Schmidt said she has never been to the United States and has had a very welcoming experience.
“The landscapes are very pretty,” Roman said. “The people are warm, too. It was a good chance to get to know the American education system, how it works, the materials used, how you deal with technology and relationships between the pupils and teachers.”
“We’re used to a big city, and the pupils are more respectful with their teachers here than in the big city,” Schmidt said. “They listen with full attention. It’s very nice to see. They were very curious about us.”
Students asked about the Argentinian children, plants, animals, climate, driving age, dating and dancing, among other things.
“Some of the problems we have back home are the same as here,” Schmidt said.
A big difference Roman and Schmidt noticed was that physical education is taught in school. Schmidt said there are no facilities for such classes at the schools in Buenos Aires and sports are not a part of the school.
In Argentina, Roman’s school is for students 16 and older who have had troubles finishing their high school studies. The school is located at the center of the city and has 87 teachers and 250 students, making it one of the smaller schools in Buenos Aires. The school specializes in art, such as languages, dancing and special arts. It is one of 13 schools with specializations in Buenos Aires.
Schmidt is the superintendent of the elementary level in the 17th district in the city. She has 22 elementary schools to supervise, with a total of 6,700 students. Her main job is to visit all of the schools throughout the week and talk with the principals. The government handles the funding of the schools. Buenos Aires is considered its own providence and has its own governing body.
“The kids have really benefited from this experience,” Egan said. “They’ve been trying to speak Spanish to them and learning about another country and another government. Our teachers have also enjoyed having them in our district.”
The educators had opportunities to explore the area outside of school as well. They went to a concert and a museum and even attended a field trip with students to Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien. They also visited UW-Platteville and Southwest Technical College to tour the campuses and learn about what is offered.
Roman said they have fewer resources in Argentina but make the most of what they have.
Schmidt said she hopes to be able to connect the two schools via Skype in the fifth grade and Spanish class.
Roman and Schmidt returned to Argentina on Oct. 30.