Teachers exchange cultures in Vail Valley | VailDaily.com

Teachers exchange cultures in Vail Valley

Lauren Glendenning
Vail Valley, CO Colorado
Special to the DailySusan Chipman, third from right, a French teacher at Battle Mountain High School in Eagle-Vail, Colorado, has tea with fellow Fulbright Scholar Abdenbe El Badri's family in Ksar El Kebir, Morocco.

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” If there’s one thing Abdenbe El Badri wants the people he’s met in Colorado’s Vail Valley and America to know when he leaves, it’s that America has some wonderful people.

The Moroccan teacher came to the valley as a Fulbright Scholar, a U.S. state department-sponsored program that sends teachers around the world as exchange students. El Badri hosted Susan Chipman, a Battle Mountain High School French teacher, in Morocco for six weeks, and now he’s at the tail end of his six-week stay here.

El Badri is away from his wife and young son during his stay, which has been really hard, but the experience he’s getting will be unforgettable, he said. All of the Battle Mountain teachers have welcomed him, making it easier to adjust and feel comfortable.

“I feel like I am with my family here,” he said.

Chipman and El Badri have become great friends after learning so much from each other about the two very different cultures. They stayed in each other’s homes, with their families, and got a close-up look at what it’s like to be Moroccan or American.

The Fulbright Scholars was the perfect program for Chipman. As a French teacher who has only spent time in France, she wanted to see what other French-speaking cultures were like. It’s something she can now share with her students and it really adds to her teaching, she said.

“In French class, you don’t think of all these other (French-speaking) countries,” she said. “Now (my students) get this taste of another culture besides France.”

El Badri has given many presentations to different classes at both Battle Mountain and the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, where Chipman also teaches French. He made a slideshow of photos that show the Moroccan and Islamic lifestyles.

The students asked tons of questions, he said. Some students wanted to know about Moroccan food, others wanted to know about religion or schools.

“I spent a lot of time talking about politics (at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy),” he said. “And (Susan’s husband, Edward) is always asking me questions about my culture.”

Both cultures seem to have a natural willingness to understand the other, but sometimes sharing those lessons needs extra encouragement, he said. That’s why the Fulbright Scholars program was something that really interested him ” it’s a program dedicated to learning about foreign lifestyles.

Both El Badri and Chipman were most surprised at the differences in each country’s schools. In Morocco, the schools are very bare, Chipman said. There are no decorations on the walls, and there isn’t a lot of technology to help teachers teach. The classrooms are just chairs and chalk, she said.

In an American school, El Badri was surprised to see so much stuff ” from books to computers to posters to telephones. The library, he said, was especially impressive.

“The classrooms are really equipped,” El Badri said. “The students here should be proud of the things they have here. … Sometimes you have the feeling they don’t realize what they have.”

Chipman noticed the Moroccan students were very respectful. They seemed excited to be in school and eager to learn. It stuck out in her mind because American students aren’t always so well-behaved.

It’s something she hopes her students can learn from El Badri ” that an education should be cherished.

“I think (the Moroccan students) realize that education is a privilege,” Chipman said. “It’s not always what you posses that makes for a good education, it’s what you put into it.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com

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