Hayden teacher to create educational program after visiting South Pacific | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden teacher to create educational program after visiting South Pacific

Jack Weinstein

— Christine Epp will expose Hayden Valley Elementary School students to another part of the world.

But to do that, she has to go there first.

Christine and her husband, Charlie, will travel from July 8 to 21 to the Solomon and Fiji islands. It's not going to be much of a vacation, Charlie joked. Christine will mentor teachers in four schools while Charlie will use his construction background to assist with ongoing school projects.

Three years ago, Christine created a program called Classrooms Bridging Continents. During that time, her students created projects about, communicated with and sent supplies to the tsunami-destroyed Three Swallows School on the Solomon Island of Gizo in the South Pacific.

But Christine said the supplies didn't always make it to the school, or when they did, the teachers didn't always know what to do with them. A person Christine knows in the Solomon Islands recommended that she visit, to mentor the teachers and try to create a better means to ship the supplies.

She said Classrooms Bridging Continents evolved into a new program, World Class Connections.

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After returning from mentoring teachers and making connections in the Solomon and Fiji islands, Christine and four other teachers at Hayden Valley Elementary will teach the program next year. Her daughter Leisha, a teacher at Carlson Elementary School in Idaho Springs, also will teach the program.

As part of World Class Connec­tions, Hayden students and those in Idaho Springs will communicate with students at the schools in the Solomon and Fiji islands through Skype, e-mail and written letters; learn about each other's cultures; and study global issues.

Christine — a Hayden native who has taught for 36 years, 28 in Hayden — said it's important for children to experience global cultural learning, which can help them understand and be more tolerant of the differences in their own communities.

"We're more limited than in a larger area like Denver that might have several different cultures in their classrooms," she said. "A lot of the students in Routt County don't always get to go places and experience that."

Charlie, who owns Bear River Builders and C's Catering in Hayden, said he hopes to lend some of his construction knowledge to school projects on the islands.

"I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to do this and be able to help people in a Third World country," Charlie said.

Tammie Delaney's children, 14-year-old Liam and 12-year-old Millie, both had Christine as a teacher when they attended the elementary school. Delaney described Christine as someone who loves teaching and said that enthusiasm carries over to the students.

"In a small community, it's just amazing to have teachers who are really broadening kids' minds beyond the confines of our community," Delaney said. "Bringing that bigger picture and world aspect to kids is something that is a tremendous gift."

School Principal Rhonda Swe­etser said in addition to the benefits for students participating in the program, it would also affect the other teachers. Christine said she and the other four teachers who will participate next year — Kathy Deepe, Debbie Schumacher, Zach Wuestewald and Daniel Lamb — would meet monthly to brainstorm, share ideas and evaluate the program.

"The whole school will really benefit because she'll come back and share with the students and staff about what she's experienced, to share with us her worldly experiences that we don't always get in Hayden," Sweetser said.

Christine was awarded two grants totaling $2,700 to help pay for the trip, but she said she and Charlie are paying for the rest, about $8,500. She said they're committed to the trip but could use some help.

Those who want to contribute can send money in Christine Epp's name to Hayden School District, P.O. Box 70, Hayden, CO 81639. For more information, call Christine at 276-3363.

How to help

To assist Christine and Charlie Epp with travel costs, send contributions in Christine Epp’s name to Hayden School District, P.O. Box 70, Hayden, CO 81639. For more information, call Christine at 276-3363.

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