(MERIDIAN) - Ksenia S. Zhbanova, an assistant professor in Elementary Education at Mississippi State University-Meridian, is finding practical experiences for her students to apply what they learn in the classroom.
She has asked her students to write pen pal letters to students in Russia, to work with Hope Village for Children and to work with the MSU-Riley Center arts integration in the classroom program. The goal of these programs, she said, is to give students experience outside the classroom and to apply what they have learned while exposing them to different experiences.
Zhbanova, a native of Russia, received her bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Iowa. Before teaching at MSU-Meridian, she taught gifted students at a public school in Iowa for several years. She involved her students there in a pen pal program and that gave her the idea to apply the lesson for older students studying to become teachers.
Last semester she used the experience in a class called Explaining Diversity Through Writing and this semester she uses it in her Writing Through Thinking class.
Her students write letters to middle and high school students in Russia about Mississippi and the Russian students write about Russia. Zhbanova said students in Russia are taught a foreign language at a young age so they are able to correspond in English.
“Both parties are extremely excited about the program,” Zhbanova said.
Zhbanova said the program benefits both sides because it allows both future teachers and students to be exposed to different cultures. The program also gives her students a sense of what it is like to teach someone who speaks a different language.
The MSU-Meridian students write the letters in pen and then Zhbanova scans the letters and emails them to a person she knows in Russia. That quickens the response time while maintaining the personal touch of writing in pen, Zhbanova said.
Partnership with Hope Village
Zhbanova said it is important to build connections within the community, too. She is working on creating a partnership with Hope Village Guild at the Hope Village for Children.
She would like her students to volunteer with Hope Village's Run for Hope and other projects. MSU-Meridian students plan to volunteer with the event and provide water to runners on Nov. 10.
Zhbanova would also like her students to be able to tutor children at Hope Village and work with them on extracurricular activities. Zhbanova said her goal is to have the project set up and ready to begin next semester.
Emily Strasser, Hope Village Guild member, said she is excited for the partnership and is happy Zhbanova reached out to them.
One of the goals for the partnership, Strasser said, is for children at Hope Village to receive more instruction during the school year. This will help kids to receive the help they might need, she said.
Zhbanova said she been working, also, with the MSU-Riley Center to expose her students to arts integration in the classroom.
Her students have been creating resource guides for teachers to use in the classroom as well as for the educational shows being put on by the Riley Center, Zhbanova said. Her students are highlighting the connection of subjects such as science and math with the arts.
Teaching through the arts can help expose students to different opportunities they may not have had before, Zhbanova said.
“It will also give them self-confidence,” Zhbanova said.
Zhbanova said through ideas such as these three programs she wants to give her students exposure to ideas beyond a textbook to use in their classrooms.
Story by Bianca Moorman, The Meridian Star