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Simmons teaches, learns during trip abroad

A Butler County Schools administrator recently enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience abroad. Dr. Tera Simmons of the Central Office and former Greenville Elementary School principal, shared her insights on mentoring with an international group of educators as part of the ECREA 2010 European Communication Conference in Hamburg, Germany the week of October 11.

“I’ve stayed in touch with two of my professors from Regent University, who were submitting a proposal to present at this conference overseas. They asked me if I wanted to participate, and I said I did,” Simmons explained.

With over 1,400 proposals submitted from around the world, Simmons said they thought it unlikely they would be chosen. The trio of professors was very pleasantly surprised in May 2010 to receive confirmation the group was among the select few.

In spite of an increased terrorism threat in Europe that was announced shortly before time for their departure, Simmons said she and her colleagues prayed about the matter and decided to proceed with their plans.

“And when we got to Hamburg, everything was fine. There was nothing that made me sense any fear of attacks; no one seemed to be alarmed,” Simmons said.

Her presentation topic was on mentoring future leaders via online communications, and it was a perfect topic, Simmons said.

“One of the other professors had been my mentor, and she had been mentored by the third professor-so it really was a case of cascading mentoring,” Simmons said with a smile. Simmons spoke along with educators from Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway and other regions of the U.S.-although she said she appeared to be the only one with a true southern American accent.

“I got a lot of smiles when I spoke,” she laughed. “I sort of stood out at the conference.”

Giving the presentation was a great experience, she says, along with seeing the sights of Hamburg. But her adventures abroad did not end there.

“One of the ladies had the opportunity to do an educational presentation in Rome, so I had a chance to go with her. To see the Coliseum, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican-what a treat! I was amazed at the beauty of the architecture, the size and how long they’ve stood the test of time,” Simmons said.

She said she realized how important it is for American children to learn a second language.

“Thank goodness I always had an interpreter with me,” Simmons said. “It would have been tough otherwise.”

There was also the culture shock of different terminologies and the sort of taxi driving in Rome “that made me just close my eyes and pray,” she laughed.

She also experienced some very inspirational moments: her first Mass early in the morning at The Vatican (“very different from what I am accustomed to, but so neat to be a part of that”), and attending a concert performed in Italian and German in honor of Pope Benedict, sitting close enough to the Pontiff she “could almost touch him.”

“When I visited the Coliseum where so many people died for their faith, it wasn’t a morbid thing for me. It was inspirational. I wondered how many of us today would be willing to do the same for what we believe in,” Simmons pondered.

Her action-packed week of plane flights, presentations and sight-seeing proved to be an eye-opening learning experience for the educator, and one she won’t soon forget.

“I am so glad I had the opportunity and means to do this, and that the local school system was nice enough to give me the time away from the Central Office,” said Simmons.