By Cathryn Sloane, The Daily Iowan.
Sanghee Im, an elementary-school teacher from Daejeon, South Korea, sits with Lee Mi Ae and Lee Hui Jing as they skim through reading material. Sanghee said she thought Iowa was cozy and that people were very friendly. Photo by Zandra Feig
Most of the 22 South Korean teachers welcomed to the University of Iowa campus on Monday had never been to the United States before.
But not Kim Yong Kik, who previously visited Chicago. He feels Iowa is “more peaceful.”
Kim, a mathematics and science teacher, will spend two weeks at the UI with his Korean colleagues attending a teaching workshop in which they will learn about the American approach to gifted education, the visiting teachers’ specialty area. They will also share their experiences in their home country.
One of the visitors, English teacher Insing Hee, said she would like to teach in the United States someday if possible.
Along with her fellow teachers, she looks forward to learning in the workshop.
“I hope to get more information on gifted education,” the friendly woman said.
This is the eighth year for the UI Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development to host South Korean educators.
The group of 11 men and 11 women have traveled from Daejeon, a South Korean city with a population of more than 1.4 million. They teach at the elementary, middle-school, and high-school levels, and three-quarters of them teach mathematics, said Laurie Croft, the Belin-Blank professional-development administrator and lead organizer of the event.
The Belin-Blank Center partnered with the Daejeon Metropolitan Office of Education to make the trip possible.
UI officials spoke at a small welcoming ceremony Monday morning in an effort to make the visiting educators feel at home.
They sat at small tables with pamphlets and notebooks, awaiting the speakers in a room of the Belin-Blank Center. A woman translated the speakers’ words into Korean for the teachers, because many have limited experience in English.
“We are very proud to work with you,” said Nicholas Colangelo, the center’s director. “We will be sharing with you our research for what we know about gifted students.”
Croft said she and her colleagues have prepared for the visitors since December. They are staying at the Heartland Inn in Coralville, but they will be able to take a bus to the UI campus often, allowing them to explore Iowa City when they are not in their workshop. Some of their activities will include touring the UI Museum of Natural History and eating in Burge Residence Hall’s cafeteria, according to a release.
During the workshops, topics of discussion will include identifying gifted learners, extracurricular programs, and ways to enhance creativity among students.
Many differences in gifted-education practices exist between the two countries. The United States is much more established in the field — gifted education did not begin in South Korea until 1983, yet it became much stronger in the mid-1990s, Croft said in a news release.
In addition, South Korean government is very much involved, and the U.S. government plays little role. According to the National Association for Gifted Children’s website, there are 43,791 identified gifted students in Iowa.
One of the Korean team leaders, Kim Hyuncheol, said he has taught gifted education for eight years. Through a translator, the mathematics teacher said he is intrigued to learn about American teaching methods.
Croft said it is great to have the chance to work with international colleagues.
“It’s one of the things I look forward to the most,” she said.