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The Cheshire education system has long been regarded as one of the best in Connecticut.
Now, representatives from a former Soviet Union-bloc country are using its model as an example of how to run their own schools.
This week, members of a group from the Republic of Azerbaijan came to Cheshire to tour two of its schools and pick the brain of administrators, in an effort to develop their own system in their native land. The representatives, none of whom spoke English but communicated through an interpreter, visited Chapman School first, then headed over to Cheshire High School, experiencing the daily activities of both an elementary and high school.
The group visiting Cheshire was one of many which visited state schools throughout the day on Tuesday, giving a broad overview of the Connecticut school system.
“This is a very busy program,” explained Dr. Cynthia McDaniels, a professor from Southern Connecticut State University, who accompanied the Azerbaijani group on their tour. “They are here to see the American educational system, with an emphasis on leadership.”
The program was sponsored by SCSU, and Cheshire was chosen because Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greg Florio has known the organizer of the event for years and was contacted about taking part. Florio stated that the representatives were interested in seeing the inner workings of a few schools in town and discussing some of the techniques used by educators.
“This is an opportunity for them to see the structure of the schools and have a little dialogue,” he explained.
At 10 a.m., the group, comprised of three Azerbaijan educators, arrived at Chapman, armed with cameras, a video recorder, and several questions for Chapman Principal Russell Hinckley, who served as the group’s guide during their visit. Through the interpreter, group members asked about a variety of things, from who sets the curriculum to how homework is doled out to students each week.
Noticing the many PTA-sponsored projects highlighted throughout the school, members asked how parents are convinced to participate in their children’s education. “That is an issue (in Azerbaijan),” the interpreter informed Hinckley.
After the initial questions were answered, the group toured the building, stopping to view a few poster boards displaying different student accomplishments, then entering different classrooms to get a sense of student/teacher interaction.
At the entrance to one classroom, the representatives stopped and inquired as to what the students inside were doing. Hinckley explained that some of the students were sharing their own work with the rest of the class. “That’s something the students will do from time to time,” he commented, as the group looked on from the doorway, snapping pictures.
Then, they entered another classroom and watched as the teacher instructed her second-grade class in the lesson for the day.
“It is a great chance to show off Chapman School and some of the wonderful things we do here,” said Hinckley.
After the tour, Hinckley and Florio planned to sit down with the representatives and talk about the school’s mission statement and answer any further questions they might have, before eventually moving on to CHS.
“It is certainly good for our district that we get to showcase our schools in this way,” said Florio.
For McDaniels, assisting the group during their visit was “interesting and exciting.” One of her main responsibilities at Southern, she explained, is teaching future educators, with a focus on diversity.
“This is really right up my alley,” she remarked, with a smile.
Later on Tuesday, McDaniels and other professors made presentations on a variety of educational issues, where she would focus on diversity in schools.
Because of the language barrier that exists, she stated that her presentation would rely heavily on visuals and even some music.
“I think this is a wonderful program,” she remarked. “We can all learn something about education from other nations.”