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Finding Inspiration in Slovenia
Student teaching in Slovenia gave alumna Courtney Krefting new perspectives.
Courtney Krefting ’17 crouched down next to Paulina, a fourth-grade student from Russia. Paulina erased part of the drawing and wiped away a tear. “Our unit was about weather, and we incorporated the topic into every subject, even math and art,” Courtney says. “The assignment was to show the weather in a moment that impacted their lives.” Paulina wanted to draw a picture about a hike through a park with her father. “She was frustrated because she couldn’t draw the legs right,” Courtney says. “I asked her to come to the window, and we stood looking at the trees that surrounded the school.”
Courtney encouraged Paulina to draw just the trees. “I watched as she painted the tree leaves orange and red. She colored the tree trunk a soft brown. As she painted the sky a lovely light blue, she was smiling. I felt like I made a difference that day.”
Courtney was on an adventure to student teach in an English-speaking fourth-grade class in the Danila Kumar International School in Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was part of UMD’s yearly study abroad eight-week student teaching course in Slovenia or Ireland.
Courtney’s students came to the Danila Kumar school from all over the world including China, Turkey, Russia, and England, and the curriculum was vastly different from the U.S. system
“It was a inquiry-based program,” Courtney says. “They didn’t have tests, they had presentations. The students rated each other.” Courtney listed many differences between her student teaching experience at Duluth’s Lowell School and the North Shore Community School, north of Duluth.
“Danila Kumar practiced time management,” she said. The teacher would remind students that they had 10 minutes left, and then five minutes. Each unit was based on a topic. Courtney’s weather unit brought graphs about the weather to the math class, and a science experiment to make clouds.
The experience gave Courtney the opportunity to travel. “Italy was amazing,” she says. And it also gave her a fresh approach to teaching. She starts teaching in 2018 at a Bloomington active-learning preschool. “My students in Slovenia gave me a tip,” she says. “We can evaluate in a more gentle way. Give students stars and explain what you liked and wishes for things that could change.”