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NSU students fulfill Pre-Intern II requirements in Vienna

For the first time, education majors at Northeastern State University met their requirements for Pre-Internship II with a trip abroad.

Students visited the Vienna International School in Austria from May 14-23, where they received an intensive five-day immersion in teaching techniques.

"The College of Education is very excited with this new opportunity to provide our teacher candidates with exposure to other cultures and viewpoints in an effort to foster a global perspective," said Dr. Kay Grant, dean of NSU's College of Education.

Instrumental in developing the international option for the Pre-Internship II course was Cindi Fries, instructor for Educational Foundations and Leadership at NSU Broken Arrow.

"It really stems from my connections," Fries said. "My husband's family is Austrian. A good friend of his family got a job teaching at the Vienna International School in the 2008-09 school year. When we were visiting relatives, I would ask to go to observe and to teach. When I went there, I knew it would be a great opportunity for our students."

The Vienna International School, founded in 1978, teaches children mostly from the city's United Nations and diplomatic missions. However, it also accepts students from the international business community and Austrian families. Enrollment is about 1,400.

"Vienna has one of four international main offices for the UN, so the school was designed for children of UN employees," Fries said. "It is a private school teaching international baccalaureate courses, so credits transfer to schools around the world. A hundred different languages are spoken at the school and about 600 kids are taught in English. Everyone is a foreigner so we got to see many different cultures blending."

The internship program was created after the administrations of VIS and NSU expressed mutual interest. Fries worked with Assistant Professor Stan Sanders to create a curriculum meeting NSU's requirements.

"Dr. Sanders is director of our clinical education program," Fries said. "We worked out a course of study that would work in any setting, not just Vienna. We believe this curriculum can create an opportunity for students absolutely anywhere the faculty can get it set up."

The application process selected five students for the trip: Tabitha Fowler of Mannford, Casey Wilson of Muldrow, Kristie Humphries of Wagoner, Asthon Nutt of Muskogee and Rhonda Lane of Pryor. While the timeframe allowed them chances to enjoy the city's culture, the pace of instruction was vigorous.

"Dr. Sanders' program is 10 internship days, half of which are at the international site," Fries said. "It is accelerated because they do have to teach at least one lesson. At least 18 students indicated interest, but we only had an agreement with the elementary education portion of VIS. So all selected students were either elementary or early childhood education majors."

Fries said the students were outstanding ambassadors for NSU.

"Our students did not even flinch at the prospect of teaching at an international school," she said. "They rose to my expectations and went above it. We were well-received at the school and the impressions they made on faculty were positive."

Fries has been a member of NSU's faculty since 2004. She holds a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Tulsa and a master's in school counseling from NSU. She is completing her doctoral dissertation at Oklahoma State University.

She served as coordinating teacher for the VIS faculty who hosted the interns. Her role was to debrief students and teachers, act as instructors and offer support. She will lead another nine NSU students to VIS in November.

Whether the international option remains open for Pre-Internship II is not yet determined, but Fries hopes it can continue.

"The future of this program must come from both sides," she said. "The school must invite and host us in classrooms. It is a professional courtesy because there is no compensation for the teachers or the school. I don't know how many times we can go to the same school in a row. As long as we're invited I'm sure we'll go. But this concept is open to other faculty in the College of Education who might be able to arrange to go to another school."

NSU's College of Education requires its students to complete three internships while pursuing a bachelor's degree. Pre-Internship I involves a student assisting a faculty member at a participating school while Pre-Internship II requires the assembling and teaching of lessons. The third internship is fully immersive in which a student teaches a course for a semester.

Published: 6/8/2010 10:44:30 AM

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