An Exchange of Learning

June KauffmanJune Kauffman, an ESOL teacher at Ducketts Lane Elementary School, has taught in the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) since 2011. Prior to moving to Laurel with her husband and two children in 2008, she lived in Hong Kong, China for 15 years where she taught English and fell in love with Asian food and hospitality.


Pam Freedman
Pam Freedman teaches English Learners (ELs) at Ducketts Lane Elementary School. This is her ninth year teaching in Howard County and her 12th year teaching ELs from Pre-K through 12th grade.

Here Kauffman and Freedman write about their experiences with the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program, where they enjoy learning from their students as much as they do teaching them.

Ten years, seven teachers, more than 200 Korean students and an abundance of learning have taken place in the Korean Summer Cultural Exchange Program hosted by the International Student Registration Center of HCPSS. Started in 2005 by HCPSS International Student and Family Services Specialist Min Kim and taught for many years by retired teacher Pat Previdi, the three-week learning excursion challenges students to learn to navigate culture and language through daily formal English classes, visits to places with historical or cultural significance, and building relationships with host families.

Middle school students from Iksan, South Korea go through a rigorous selection process to be accepted into the program. They attend classes taught in English every morning, and focus on all skills necessary for English language development: reading, writing, listening and speaking. This multi-faceted approach helps to build confidence and camaraderie among students as well as challenges them to try new things.

South Korean English language teachers accompany students on their trip and join in the learning environment. This exchange provides a prime opportunity for the teachers to participate in hands-on professional development and gain teaching skills they can use in their language classrooms. We encourage the teachers to teach a mini-lesson to the students, so we can learn from them as well.

This summer, we co-taught 20 students and hosted two teachers at Patapsco Middle School. Students loved debating, learning idioms, typing journal responses in the computer lab, and giving and receiving feedback from their peers. Throughout the three weeks, the students’ strong English language skills “knocked our socks off” and challenged us to challenge them even more.

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding activities involved the Korean students’ interaction with American students. Students from both countries learned about each other through various games and activities. It was gratifying for their teachers–both Korean and American–to watch them interact and witness first-hand how the students’ English skills had developed. This activity left both the students and teachers feeling accomplished.

At the end of the program, the students showcased musical performances and read essays that highlighted their talents and time spent in the United States. Host families were invited to attend the ceremony. In addition, a memo of understanding was signed by HCPSS Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael J. Martirano and Superintendent Jideug Yu from Iksan, South Korea, expressing an intent to continue in this amazing partnership.

To see video and photos of the closing ceremony, visit here.

Argentina spring break

Broadening HCPSS Students’ Perspectives Through Cultural Exchange

Julia Greiwe-MartinezJulia Greiwe-Martinez has been teaching Spanish at Howard High School since 2000 and served as the World Language team leader for more than 12 years. Previously, she taught English in Spain and co-founded a translation agency. She has traveled with students on cultural exchanges to Argentina, Chile, Peru, Costa Rica and Spain.


Brandon Morfoot After graduating from McDaniel College in 2015, Brandon Morfoot joined Atholton High School as a Spanish teacher. Morfoot, who enjoys learning about other cultures, travels around the globe at every possible opportunity.

Greiwe-Martinez and Morfoot blog about their recent spring break trip to Argentina with Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) students.

Students from three Howard County high schools participated in Explore Argentina, a cultural immersion and community service trip through SAGE and No Barriers, an organization that creates travel opportunities for students to become engaged and compassionate global citizens. We spent 11 days with 12 Howard County students exploring Buenos Aires, Tigre, Iguazu Falls and parts of Misiones.

The entire trip was conducted in Spanish, from the moment the students arrived at the airport until the final good-byes upon returning to Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport. The visits included two service learning opportunities, one in Buenos Aires in the Banco de Alimentos (food bank) filling boxes with consumables for charitable organizations to share with families and communities in need. The other service learning project took place at school number 153 in Oberá Misiones in a cultural exchange through a school façade painting project and school supply donation ceremony.

Another highlight of the trip was Iguazu, where students marveled at one of the seven wonders of the world, Iguazu Falls. There we stood at the meeting point of three nations, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and toured a local wild animal rehabilitation center to learn about the challenges of different species in this sub-tropical rain forest.

Other activities included: an educational tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site San Ignacio Jesuit Missions, a traditional Argentine asado (barbecue), tango lessons, a stay at a traditional family style chacra and mate plantation, the Argentine hot tea mate, in addition to a cultural tour of Buenos Aires with a visit to the renowned Café Tortoni, the hang-out spot of the cultural elite.

Throughout the trip, students had regular reflection and sharing time, where they were able to process their experiences as a group and make connections to their personal goals. Based on student feedback on the trip, the opportunity to spend time with the kids at the local school, help out, play, share tereré (a cold form of mate made by the kids with soda) and learn about each other’s cultures and ways of life made the most impact.

Greiwe-Martinez said that the highlight of her language teaching career is the opportunity to travel with students in a country where they are able to apply their skills in a real world situation and make connections to the community in a natural way, through shared experiences. This was the case in our journey to Argentina. Mentoring the students to explore new foods, take risks in language learning, and engage in dialogues with locals about important social, political and personal topics such as social justice, the changes in the environment, corruption, changing family values, and cultural customs is a living and breathing classroom experience.

Safety is the school system’s top priority. HCPSS follows the U.S. Department of State’s recommendations to ensure the safety of its students and staff while on school system-sponsored international travel. The planning and approval of international educational travel events to Europe have been suspended until the current Europe Travel Alert is lifted.

Learning French Through Lunch

Thomas enjoying pizza in Syracuse, Italy.

Thomas enjoying pizza in Syracuse, Italy.

Thomas Regnante is a junior at Centennial High School and an award winning food blogger. He is the co-founder, with his brother Charles, of the 2 Dudes Who Love Food blog. For over four and a half years, Thomas has written restaurant reviews, created how-to-cook videos and participated in food philanthropy. In 2014, Baltimore Magazine recognized 2 Dudes Who Love Food as the Best Food Blog. In this post, Thomas discusses a visit to the Petit Louis Bistro restaurant in connection to Ms. Doff’s French class and world language experiences at school.

Arranged by my high school French teacher Madame Doff, Petit Louis welcomed my French class for a 3-course lunch to introduce us to French cuisine. During the course of two days, Petit Louis served lunch to over 200 French students from Centennial High School. It was a fantastic experience!

At Petit Louis, my classmates and I were given an opportunity to use French outside of the classroom. My friends and I were able to apply what we learned in French class to speak in French to the waiters. Having this experience made me and my friends excited to know that we could use our knowledge in the real world. I was able to say what I wanted to eat and drink in French, and the waiters comprehended what I was saying. Although we speak in French class all the time, it felt nice knowing that I could use French outside the classroom in the community.

As a food blogger, I know the importance of the culinary arts. That’s why it was so cool to realize how intertwined and connected the cuisine of a country is to that of a country’s language and culture. This realization is especially crucial considering that students aren’t just learning about the language in a world language class, but also about the culture, cuisine and atmosphere that the language is spoken in. So it is essential that students have a better understanding of the French cuisine to improve their French linguistic skills and learn more about French culture.

Check out my original blog post about Petit Louis.