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McKenzie school teacher goes ‘Down Under’

Angela Garrett, an English teacher at McKenzie School, recently had the experience of a lifetime, nearly 10,000 miles from home.

Traveling along with Auburn University as a study abroad portion of a master’s program, Garrett spent three weeks in Australia. Looking back, she realizes what a great opportunity was afforded to her.

“It was eye-opening and amazing,” Garrett, who currently teaches sixth-, eighth-, ninth- and 10th-grade English, said. “I just want to go back.”

As part of the trip, the students and professors took in the beauty and uniqueness of the country as well as studying the school systems.

“I went with Auburn graduate and post graduate studies programs to study the school systems in Australia,” Garrett said. “We studied everything from before Pre-K to college.”

The experience was like no other for Garrett. From attending a school in Aboriginal Tribe to assisting with a special needs class, Garrett was fascinated with the education of the country, as well as the effectiveness of many of the programs.

“It was really nice to see 7-year-olds all run to get their snack and every single one of them have fruits and vegetables,” she recalled.

Garrett also emphasized the success the teachers have had with special needs in the school system.

“They are very in tune with the needs of autistic children,” she said.

Garrett recalled working with special needs children during her trip.

“One day, I was in a school and we were with special needs children,” she said. “We got the kids in a line, walked three blocks over to the grocery store, bought fresh blueberries and yogurt and honey, went back to the school and made smoothies.”

The unique experience left an impression on Garrett.

“They are teaching the students everyday tasks – it was just so common sense,” she added.

Besides learning new ways to do things, Garrett observed that students in Australia are much like those studying in the United States.

“Kids are kids, it doesn’t matter if they are American or Australian,” she said. “They are curious about who you are and where you come from.”

Garrett added that schools in the United States and Australia could learn from each other.

“They (Australia) are not doing everything right and we’re not doing everything right,” she said. “But we can learn so much from each other.”

Another exciting highlight of the trip included a cooking duel with Hon Jeremy Radcliff MP, the Minister of Education and Training of Tasmania. While there, Garrett was challenged to lead a few students in an educational cooking class against Rockcliff.

“When I arrived, they gave me an apron and said you are going to make a beet root dip, and Jeremy is going to make an English pea and mint dip,” Garrett explained. “Whoever finishes the fastest and still has the best tasting dip, wins”

With a touch of competitiveness along with two sixth graders, Garrett completed and won the challenge.

Now that she is back home in Butler County, Garrett expressed how thankful she is to Auburn.

“They truly gave us an authentic hands on experience,” she said.

Garrett will graduate in August with a master’s degree in administration. She also plans to earn her doctorate.

Where will she study?

“I am not sure where I am going,” she concluded. “It might be Australia.”

Regardless, this McKenzie schoolteacher has a bright future ahead of her.