Cultural exchange fuels student achievement


Staff writer

Olympic High School assistant principal Roxanne Thayer is refining state curriculum with the help of international experience.

Hosting Lilian Behler, a high school administrator from Argentina, the duo has worked together to help fuel student achievement that reaches out to varying student populations.

“We’ve had some really in-depth conversations based around student evaluation and teaching methods,” Thayer said. “It causes you to reflect on your school and what’s different here versus internationally.”

As part of the Fulbright award, Thayer and Behler must work on one project together, focused on education. The project the two will work on focuses on personalizing education for students and teachers through the use of advisories, advisory curriculum and student-led parent conferencing. Thayer added that OHS also is involved with the “Eastside Initiative,” a program that started at OHS, designed to improve student achievement and reach out to the varied student population, which coincides with Behler’s “resiliency in schools” program.

“Lilian is involved in resilience training and how students can sustain themselves through difficult times,” Thayer said. “She’s had a multi-level immersion in Olympic’s ideas and curriculum.”

A whirlwind of activities since Behler flew in from Argentina, the two have sat in various OHS classrooms, including Spanish classes where many students were able to communicate with Behler in her native language.

“Lilian has worked with students here and they could speak in Spanish with her,” Thayer said. “Our jobs are similar, it’s all been very interesting in total.”

Thayer said one of the main reasons she applied for this award last winter was her passion for global connections with educators around the world. She added that she attended a seminar last summer focusing on educational issues surrounding students having personalization and support in their education.

Some of the differences Behler said of her schools compared with those in the United States is the students in Argentina wear uniforms and have shorter school days, creating more parent involvement.

“She has experienced our school pretty completely,” Thayer said with a laugh, adding that they also had an opportunity to visit the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia. “It has been an excellent cultural exchange with Lilian and the students.”

Thayer said they also had time to visit Vashon Island, where she lives, and attended one of the Central Kitsap School District board meetings where Behler was introduced.

In July, Thayer will travel to Argentina for three weeks to study, as an administrator, their education system. Not knowing much about Argentina, Thayer said she is eager to learn about the country’s education system and lifestyle. She also will be staying with Behler while in the country.

“I just want to immerse myself in their schools and their culture ... I’m really looking forward to learning about Argentina,” she added with a smile. “When you see different models of education, you learn to look at how you educate kids. It’s a very interesting experience, one of the best I’ve had in a lifetime.”

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