Foreign Exchange Teacher?

Jada Boddy, Reporter

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Two members of our school district participated in a foreign exchange program that is available  for only Colorado teachers. Mr. Kettler, a middle school science teacher and Mrs. Kettler a middle school counselor ventured out of the country to Australia throughout all of 2018 for an opportunity of a lifetime; not only for them but their four children as well. They shared several experiences in Australia that they wouldn’t have been able to in the United States and certainly not in mountainous Colorado. The Kettler’s explained their experience in a foreign country and all of the things they were confronted with.

To begin Australia is very different from The United States, not only are they on two completely different hemispheres; Grafton, Australia (where The Kettler’s lived in Australia) is approximately 8,072 miles away from Woodland Park, Colorado. Through the program they were involved in, the Kettler’s switched houses, cars, and essentially lives with a family from Australia who lived in the Kettler’s house, drove their cars, and worked at the Woodland Park Middle School.

The Kettlers exchange family’s home and car in Grafton, NSW.

Mrs. Kettler explains how it was weird using their household items as their own; she says, “It was kind of weird sleeping in their beds and going camping with their sleeping bags”. The Kettler’s lived about an hour from the coast so they were able to go to Australia’s beaches very often and visited Australia’s rain forest. Mrs. Kettler says excitedly, “There were beautiful ferns and vines and then waterfalls. You just feel like you’re in another world.” They were able to travel to New Zealand for about two weeks which was “Awesome!” says Mrs. Kettler.

The Kettlers behind a great view in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Mr. Kettler explains that it was similar to Florida but in the southern hemisphere, “Shorts everyday of the year!” he says eagerly. Along with the geography of Australia the wildlife was very different as well. Mrs. Kettler said that when she was a substitute teacher she would show the students pictures of animals and see if they knew what it was; their answer was often a Wombat when she displayed a photo of a Squirrel. Mr. Kettler got to stay on an island in the middle of The Great Barrier Reef for a week as part of the eleventh grade science program; this trip to The Great Barrier Reef was similar to the trip that Woodland Park Middle School takes seventh and eighth graders on called Marianne Lab.  This trip for Mr. Kettler, a science teacher, was a great experience because he was able to see the aquatic wildlife up close when they visited locations like The Great Barrier Reef and others.

Kettler family at the Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia.
Kettler family at Minnie Waters beach in NSW, Australia.

The geography of Australia was not the only large difference that the Kettler’s experienced on their adventure, the culture of Australia was different as well. There first difference was the placement with in the year that is considered Australia’s school year. For students in the United states our school year is between two calendar years; the school year begins in August and ends in May, which allows us to have a warm summer break. In Australia, their school year begins in January and ends in December with a two week break between each quarter and a six week break at Christmas which is considered their summer break. Mr. Kettler explains that the people in Australia were very laid back and easy going. He says that being a teacher there was a little rough, Mrs. Kettler says, “I don’t think the students were as engaged with their learning. I think here we put a lot more emphasis on graduating from high school then attending some sort of secondary training; go to college, go to community college at least. And there it’s just more unusual for kids to go to a university, so then it’s less important to graduate, so it’s less important to study, so it’s less important to pay attention which gives you a lot more behavior problems as a teacher.” They say that rowdy is a good description of their students. Mr. Kettler says that all the students he worked with he enjoyed the even if they were rowdy. He says, “They were good kids just like in the U.S. they want to know that a teacher cares about them, they want to try their hardest.”. Mrs. Kettler worked at a private school as a counselor; she says, “A lot of issues that I talked about with students there were exactly the same as the issues I talk about with kids here”. A big difference among the school system was that there was only elementary school and high school. High school starts in seventh grade and ends with twelfth grade. Since high school in Australia has a wider range of ages among students the younger highschoolers were taught some bad behaviors from the older students.

 

The Kettler’s say that their children had a good experience in Australia. The four different children had four different experiences as Mrs. Kettler says. They loved the traveling and new sights they saw on their trip. Their younger children were more saddened to leave because of the friends they made in Australia. However, their oldest son a ninth grader, Levi was happy to come home since he had to leave his friends in Woodland Park, Colorado. They say that their son Luke who is in eighth grade got the opportunity to play soccer in Australia and made some great friends. They say that Luke uses Fortnight to continue playing with his Australian friends. Another interesting thing about the Kettler’s trip to Australia was that a student joined them on their trip. Morgan Serafin, a junior at Woodland Park High School knew Mrs. Kettler very well from middle school and met up with them to explore Australia for about ten days. While she was there the Kettler’s took her to the Australia Zoo- Home of The Crocodile Hunter which was one of the main locations she was eager to visit. Morgan says that they went to a lot of beaches where she learned how to surf, they also went on many hikes while she was there. She says that they went to the Sydney Opera House to see a play and go on a tour of it.

Levi, Luke, Sonia and Sawyer Kettler on a Sydney Harbor Ferry in front on the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, NSW, Australia.

When Morgan visited it was during their school year so she was able to attend the school Mr. Kettler taught at; Morgan said it reminds her of an insane asylum. She says, “It was definitely different from schools in America…the kids were really rough and they cussed openly a lot…they were just like rough, they were rough with each other like they were always fighting. It was just accepted there, they always argued and said a lot of vulgar things.” Morgan’s says that their house in Grafton was amazing, they had a pool, large open backyard, the best thing about the house for Morgan was being able to see Kangaroos outside.

The Kettler’s had an overall fantastic experience during their exchange year. They saw many new cultural ideas and personalities. It was a once in a lifetime experience  that many people will never understand. Many people from the United States don’t even get the opportunity to visit Australia, imagine living there for a year!