Two buses stopped outside a Hall County elementary school Monday morning and dropped off nearly 80 people ready to learn.
They weren’t carrying lunchboxes and book bags, though. These were adults on the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education’s 20th Annual State Bus Trip.
“We have two busloads of business and education leaders, and hopefully they’ll be able to find some of the secrets of this little school and be able to take some of those back to their communities,” said Steve Dolinger, president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education.
The World Language Academy in Flowery Branch was the first of 10 stops on a four-day tour for the group of educators, businesspeople, government and community leaders. They’ll be visiting some schools this week and some next week.
The tour was created in 1993 to celebrate successful schools and share best practices with other educators.
“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to get business and industry people out in the state to see the incredible things we have going on in the public schools,” Georgia State Schools Superintendent John Barge said.
The academy was selected as the first stop because of its achievement numbers, awards, the use of technology in the classroom and its relationships within the community.
“We wanted to come here and see what is giving the school such a good reputation,” Dolinger said.
The students made a lasting impression by greeting the tour with a song and introducing themselves in different languages.
“We’ve just heard from these precocious kids that they’re not just doing well on their own language but in two other languages. That’s pretty exceptional,” Dolinger said.
Barge also complimented the school and students on their achievements, saying his agency’s goal is to have 20 similar elementary schools in the state by 2020.
“We’re really beefing up our international initiatives, the world languages division in our agency, and we have plans to grow,” Barge said.
Fifth-graders led small groups from class to class, where many of the tour members got involved in the students’ lessons.
Retta Chin, a middle grades education student at Clayton State University, talked with students while they drew skeletons in art class for the upcoming Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
She said teaching students about multiple languages and cultures when they are younger is clearly a benefit to them.
Andrea Antepenko, a special education teacher at Franklin County Middle School, stood inside a classroom doorway watching students learn Mandarin Chinese. The class uses videoconferencing to teach students at another school at the same time.
Antepenko said the idea of using videoconferencing is something her school could adopt to easily connect students to other areas of the world.
“I teach in very rural Georgia. This kind of opens my eyes to see a rural county open their (students’) eyes to the world — to help them see there is a bigger world out there,” Antepenko said.