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Archive for Saturday, November 12, 1994

TEACHERS TEAM UP FOR EDUCATION

November 12, 1994

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American Education Week will highlight a community approach to helping each and every student excel.

"Ready, Ms. Graves?" Wayne Kruse asks, hand extended.

They fall into character and dance wordlessly, spinning as if at a ball. But wait! She looks at her watch, breaks the embrace and runs away, terror on her face. His surprise and dismay is expressed in gesture and countenance, no words.

The classroom erupts. Like popcorn, third-graders hop from their chairs, hands in the air, "I know! I know," filling the room.

"All right," Kruse says, dropping from the charade as Prince Charming and into his role as teacher. "What was that one? Everyone ... "

"Cinderella!" 22 voices yell.

That was easy, he tells them. Everyone has heard of Cinderella. But what about the story of "8,000 Stones," a fairy tale about China? That wouldn't be so easy to guess -- well, at least not until students from the Asian American Student Union visited the class and acted out the tale.

Such was a single afternoon in Kruse's third-grade class at Quail Run School. It embodied part of his vision for American Education Week, which begins Sunday: raising awareness that education rises from a team effort.

"It's to celebrate the things we do, to show that it's a team approach," said Kruse, an organizer of the week's events. "The responsibility doesn't rest solely on the teacher. It rests on all of us together."

The challenge for teachers in any classroom is meeting the varied needs of the students, he said. Team teaching and community involvement are two ways of accomplishing that.

Christine "Cinderella" Graves, a certified special education instructor, teams with Kruse and other third-grade teachers, allowing more individualized attention for students. The Asian-American students were special guests from Kansas University, another community resource.

Concerned that 25 percent of the country's World War I draftees were illiterate, representatives of the National Education Assn. and the American Legion began a national effort to improve education. In 1921, the NEA began a week of observance. It is always a week before the week of Thanksgiving.

Today's pupils will grow up in a world coming to grips with itself following the Cold War. Understanding other cultures will be essential -- not only in the "New World Order" but also in diverse classrooms and neighborhoods, Kruse said. The unit on folk tales is to that end.

"You can tell a lot about a country from the folk tale," he said. "It's a peek into their culture."

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