UMPI, Thailand school sign agreement

Posted Sept. 18, 2009, at 8:41 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:41 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An agreement signed Friday between the University of Maine at Presque Isle and a school in Thailand will allow UMPI education students to complete their student teaching requirements overseas.

During a brief ceremony, officials from UMPI and Lertlah School of Bangkok signed the contract.

Lertlah School is a private school with three campuses. The school is bilingual, with a portion of the courses taught in English.

Education students in their final year at UMPI must complete a student teaching requirement, which most students fulfill in classrooms throughout Aroostook County and other parts of the state. Under the agreement, UMPI education students can apply to complete their student teaching at Lertlah School.

The student teachers will spend 10 months in Thailand teaching English, math, science and other subjects at the school, which caters to students up to the ninth grade.

“This is going to be a great opportunity and experience for our education students,” Don Zillman, UMPI president, said Friday. “What a great opportunity for them to spend time teaching while exploring that country and others as well. We are very excited to be able to offer this opportunity to our students.”

Gary Smith, assistant director of Lertlah Schools said Friday the school already brings students from the University of Winnipeg in Manitoba to Thailand to teach.

“We have had a great deal of success with that program, and we are glad to be doing the same thing with UMPI,” he said. “We have been talking about this with the college for three years.”

Smith said that up to 20 students per year will be able to qualify for the program. The grade level the student teachers will teach will depend on whether they are studying elementary education or secondary education at UMPI, he said.

Once student teachers are chosen, Smith will return to campus to give them an orientation before the 10-month stay in Thailand.

The first students will leave UMPI for Thailand in the spring.

Smith said the international teaching program benefits both students and prospective teachers.

“It will benefit the UMPI students to work with children whose first language is not English,” he said Friday. “It is a challenge because it is not always easy to communicate. When they come home, they are well advanced to teach. Our students also benefit because they get a strong introduction to western-style teaching.”