Elementary school teachers Jayne Hoffman at Westside and Pam Friede at Rocky Branch say Fridays are highly anticipated.

And not because it’s the day before the weekend.

Both teachers host two visiting Chinese teacher education students in their classrooms for the school year. The cultural mix seems popular.

Friede said her two Chinese university students bring energy and zeal to the atmosphere of her third-grade classroom.

“They have helped my students with reading, writing and math and also presented a Power Point lesson that incorporated a variety of things that helped us learn a little about the Chinese culture,” Friede said. “My students were actively engaged in the lesson which culminated with playing some traditional Chinese games.”

Because of their teaching ambitions, Hoffman says her Chinese students are active participants in her Westside second grade class.

“They read with the students, practice math facts, observe in music, P.E., and love to eat lunch and interact with the students,” she said. “As the year progresses, they will gradually increasing their teaching role in the classroom, but truly every time they are with us, we learn from them.”

Hoffman, who’s taught for 20 years in the River Falls School District, volunteered to have her classroom host the Chinese because of the global perspective.

“We live in a society of ever-increasing globalization and interdependence,” she said. “Having an opportunity to have these Chinese students as part of our classroom for a year seemed a perfect opening to provide an even richer learning environment for my students and myself.”

Since Sept. 20, 22 students from Zhejiang International Studies University (ZISU) in China have been matched with 11 elementary school teachers in their classrooms of the River Falls School District.

Those 11 local teachers are: Denise Anderson (Westside), Jayne Hoffman (Westside), Becky Cunningham (Westside); Pam Friede (Rocky Branch), Paula Klacan (Rocky Branch), Joe Young (Rocky Branch), Ben Toppel (Rocky Branch); Maggie Watson (Montessori), Markell Lockwood (Montessori); Megan Westhoff (Greenwood), Jane Webb (Greenwood),Tanya Larsen (Greenwood), Anne Rasmussen (Greenwood), Karin Rost (Greenwood), and Mary Bergseng (Greenwood).

The Chinese elementary education majors are taking classes at UW-River Falls and live in the dorms there.

UWRF and ZISU have more than 30 years of intellectual and cultural exchanges among faculty and students. The River Falls School District joins the partnership by bringing the Chinese students into local classrooms as teaching assistants.

Larry Solberg, UWRF dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies, said the elementary education program exchange has many facets.

He said the Chinese students hope to improve their English usage skills and learn about U.S. people, culture and education system and methods.

“Their interactions and friendships with our domestic students provide a wonderful cultural exchange that benefits all,” he said. “Our teacher education faculty who are teaching courses in the program are learning to instruct somewhat differently because the students are still learning English -- the pace is slower.

“This experience helps inform their teaching of our domestic students who are being prepared to teach in increasingly diverse school settings where there are more English language barriers.”

For much more on this story, please see the Nov. 14 print edition of the River Falls Journal.