Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Feb. 7, 2003 - Four Irish student teachers from Belfast, Northern Ireland, will arrive in Cape Girardeau this weekend in preparation to begin teaching first, second and fourth grade students next week at Franklin Elementary School.

The exchange students attend Stranmillis University College, a college of Queen's University in Belfast, and are part of a student teaching exchange program, now in its second year, developed by Southeast Missouri State University. Under the program, Southeast and Stranmillis exchange students to teach in their local elementary schools for four to six weeks. In addition, the students participate in cultural and educational activities, and independent travel.

The Irish students will be working with Franklin Principal Rhonda Dunham and her teaching staff. Franklin teachers who will be hosting the exchange students in their rooms are first grade teacher Debbie Harris, second grade teacher Julie Harrington, and fourth grade teachers Judy Gow and Julie Antill.

The Irish student teachers are Tracy McDonald, Keith Pinkerton, Helen Proctor and Jason Scott. Professor Sandra McWilliams, head of teaching studies and partnerships with Stranmillis College, will be accompanying the Irish students. The students will be housed in the Towers residence hall complex at Southeast during their stay in Cape Girardeau.

Dr. Jean Benton, coordinator of international programs for the Southeast College of Education, arranges the exchange program. She said the Irish students, while here, will have the opportunity to work in e-MINTS classrooms at Franklin School. E-MINTS (Enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networks Teaching Strategies) transforms elementary classrooms into places for learning where teachers and students use multimedia technology to better understand the world, work together and achieve at higher levels. E-MINTS delivers a high-speed Internet connection to the classroom and places technology on the teacher's and students' desks. The statewide program provides computer workstations for every child in the classroom along with a SMART Board.

Benton says that students who participate in the exchange program enhance their future teaching careers.

"The student teachers in the exchange program get a new sense of self-confidence about their ability to teach," she said. "Our Belfast and Swansea programs are our richest programs. They give us so much in this community. The entire community - students, parents and teachers - are enriched by this experience. These exchange programs are wonderful."

Virginia Clore, a Southeast student from Winfield, Mo., participated in the student exchange with Stranmillis College and taught in Belfast last fall. Another Southeast group will be heading to Belfast in fall 2003, Benton said.

Stranmillis College was founded in 1922 to provide state-funded teacher training in the northern portion of the then, recently partitioned island. Until then, most Ulster teachers had been trained in Dublin. Today, the college is a multi-professional institution, no longer engaged solely in the education of teachers. It offers pre-service and in-service courses, undergraduate and post-graduate, for some 700 full-time students. All Stranmillis College courses lead to a qualification validated and awarded by Queen's University of Belfast. The college currently has partnerships with similar higher education institutions throughout the European Union and beyond.

Southeast's exchange program with Stranmillis College is the result of a professional relationship, which began in 1998 when Dr. Phil Parette, Southeast professor of elementary, early and special education, was supervising Southeast student teachers in Wales. Parette was able to arrange a student teaching experience at the same time in Belfast for another Southeast student. Parette coordinated the exchange with McWilliams, and since that time, Benton has been working with McWilliams and Dr. Les Caul, director of academic affairs and head of education at Stranmillis, to arrange the details of this exchange program and to work toward the development of other types of collaborative professional relationships.

Recently, the two universities were awarded a $204,500 Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to lead a six-university consortium to study at-risk students culturally and socially both in Europe and the United States, Benton said.

Southeast's exchange program with Stranmillis University College is similar in structure to Southeast student teaching exchange program with Swansea Institute, University of Wales. Two Southeast students will be leaving for Wales March 20 to teach in the elementary schools in Swansea. A group of Welsh students from Swansea will be coming to Cape Girardeau March 23 and will begin their work, also at Franklin Elementary School.


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