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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center's principal Tamara Mullins pauses for a photo with the Burmese Delegation that visited her school Tuesday afternoon to learn its teaching strategies.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Vivian Gratz, 4, colors a greeting card as Andrew Laitha talks to her about her work. Laitha was part of a Burmese Delegation that visited Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center Tuesday afternoon.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Aundria Crawford, 4, uses sequence cards to retell a story to Dr. Zaw Myint, Director General for The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Ministry of Education, Department of Myanmar Nationalities' Languages. Myint was part of a Burmese Delegation that visited Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center Tuesday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018 5:00 pm

Burmese delegation seeks ideas for education

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

As students worked in quiet classrooms Tuesday afternoon at Bunche Montessori Early Childhood Center, Principal Tamara Mullins welcomed visitors eager to learn.

The group of five men included representatives from the Myanmar Ministry of Education, who visited Bunche and two other Fort Wayne Community schools for ideas to take home.

Fort Wayne, which has a large Burmese population, was just one stop for the delegation. Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis were other cities included on the itinerary, which focused on post-secondary education institutions, according to the school district.

"We're thrilled that you've come to visit Bunche," Mullins said, presenting the Burmese Delegation for Education with gift bags filled with information about the school.

Mullins, along with other FWCS representatives, led the visitors to some classrooms so they could better understand the Montessori concept.

With plentiful space to work in and qualified teachers to learn from, the classrooms the delegation visited contrasted the educational environment visitor Andrew Laitha experienced as a student: a sparsely furnished room equipped with a chalkboard and chalk. Textbooks were limited, he said, as were properly trained teachers.

Laitha represented the delegation's U.S. sponsoring organization, the Burmese American Community Institute.

Delegates took photographs at Bunche and interacted with students as the youngsters colored at tables and did learning exercises on the floor.

They peppered Mullins with questions. They were especially intrigued about the multi-age classrooms and classroom materials, the principal said, adding she encouraged them to contact her if they wanted more information.

After Bunche, the delegation visited the Bill C. Anthis Center and New Tech Academy at Wayne High School. The school district wanted to highlight unique programs knowing they sought ideas for education, said Julie Scheurich, curriculum coordinator for English-language learners and world languages.

The visit could establish the foundation of an ongoing relationship between the district and Myanmar schools, Scheurich said.

By visiting the United States, the delegates are learning from a country with a top educational system boasting highly ranked universities, said Elaisa Vahnie, executive director of the Burmese American Community Institute.

Kyaw Soe, an interpreter for FWCS, said the benefits delegates could glean from the experience were "priceless."

While the school tours might inspire change Myanmar, Laitha cautioned it likely won't be immediate.

"It will take time," he said.

asloboda@jg.net