San Diego teacher returns from pioneer’s hometown in Germany; school exchange celebrates Louis Rose

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

Skye Oluwa is flanked by Dorothee Fetz and Mayor Georg Martens at Sister School ceremony in Neuhaus an der Oste  (Photo captured from video)

Skye Oluwa is flanked by Dorothee Fetz and Mayor Georg Martens at Sister School ceremony in Neuhaus an der Oste (Photo captured from video)

SAN DIEGO—At a student assembly in the Grundschule (Elementary School) of Neuhaus an der Oste, Germany, the town’s Mayor Georg Martens proudly received a copy of a proclamation signed by San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer celebrating the “sister” relationship between the school which Martens was visiting and the Cabrillo Elementary School in the Pt. Loma neighborhood of San Diego.

Martens said that Faulconer’s warm words were quite an honor for Neuhaus, given that the population of San Diego is 1.3 million, whereas that of Neuhaus an der Oste is only 1,100.

The proclamation was presented late last month to Martens by Skye Oluwa, a teacher of the Cabrillo Elementary School, who recently returned to San Diego from a Neuhaus trip that had been underwritten by the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History. To school officials in the town located in Germany’s Lower Saxony region near the North Sea, Oluwa presented a San Diego Unified School District Board resolution that had been introduced by Trustee Scott Barnett expressing the official hope that the sister school relationship would continue to flourish.

In addition to sharing stories about Louis Rose—the former Neuhaus resident who in 1850 became a pioneer in San Diego and subsequently gave his name to such places as Rose Canyon, Rose Creek and Roseville – Oluwa also renewed acquaintances with Doris Henningson, principal of the Neuhaus school and Dorothee Fetz, currently a third-grade teacher, who together visited the Cabrillo Elementary School in October 2012.

As Henningson and Fetz had done in San Diego, Oluwa sat in on classes, learned about the differences between the two school systems, and made friends with students during her two-week trip. In preparation for Oluwa’s visit, Neuhaus students had rehearsed such English-language songs as “This Land Is Your Land” and “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” and, as anyone watching video highlights of Oluwa’s journey could hear, gave fine renditions of the folk songs. The students also created a poster with a drawing of a very large rose to symbolize the link between Oluwa’s school and theirs.

On Monday evening, June 16, Oluwa reported on her trip to the steering committee of the Louis Rose Society at the Alvarado Estates home of Norman and Roberta Greene. At that meeting, Norman Greene was reelected as the society’s president for the next fiscal year.

Oluwa noted that whereas faculty members at Cabrillo Elementary School typically teach the same grade level each year, and thus have a new group of students each year, the teachers at the Grundschule stay with the same cohort of students from 1st through 4th grade, and then when that cohort has moved on to a middle school elsewhere, the teachers “go back to 1st grade.”

Kindergarten in Neuhaus is like preschool in the United States: voluntary.  Students are not required to attend school until the first grade.  The school day in Neuhaus is shorter than it is in San Diego, lasting only to lunchtime at 12:30 p.m., but there are after-lunch activities at the parents’ discretion which can extend the pupils’ day. One such activity is drumming, for which pupils gave an excellent demonstration on the video brought home by Oluwa.

Another difference, Oluwa said, is that the classroom populations are much smaller—about 14 students per teacher in Neuhaus, compared to close to double that number in San Diego.

For all that, students in both countries seem pretty much alike, open to new ideas, excited to have new experiences, and anxious to be liked by their teachers. Oluwa said some of the children would compete to see who could walk beside her on class field trips.

Following her presentation, Oluwa discussed with members of the Louis Rose Society and with Rose Andres, the German-language teacher at Cabrillo Elementary School, how the sister school relationship could be further enriched.

Oluwa said that it might be best for pen-pal relationships to be started in third grade, rather than in fourth, even though fourth graders have better knowledge of each other’s language. The reason is that a longer relationship would allow students to form closer bonds before they go on to other schools. Norman Greene suggested that instead of writing all their letters in the language of the penpals, students should be permitted to write some letters in their own language and then have them translated by an adult. That would result in letters that are more personal,  less formulaic and more likely to lead to friendships, said Greene.

On the video, Mayor Martens suggested that video-conferencing opportunities be found if a time difference of nine hours can be overcome. Failing that, exchange of videos in which the students could see and send messages to each other could provide both excitement and educational opportunities.

The Louis Rose Society took note of the retirement this year of Cabrillo Elementary School principal Nestor Suarez, and expressed gratitude for the constructive e role he played in helping to establish the Sister School relationship. Appointment of his successor by the San Diego Unified School District’s central administration is pending.

Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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Copyright 2014 San Diego Jewish World

2 Responses to “San Diego teacher returns from pioneer’s hometown in Germany; school exchange celebrates Louis Rose”

  1. Eileen S. Wingard says:

    An excellent article describing the most recent step taken to bring the sister school relationship
    between Cabrillo Elementary School and the Grundschule at Neuhaus closer together. The Louis
    Rose Society is certainly doing a great job to foster that relationship. These people to people con-
    nections, through learning each other’s language and culture, can do a great deal toward peace and understanding between nations.

  2. admin says:

    A fabulous trip to cement the connection between the two schools. I hope photographs have been taken of the students so that the classes can make albums or posters or bulletin boards of their pen pals. That would make their letter writing so much more personal.

    Congratulations to re-elected President Greene for sustaining this most worthwhile project!

    Sue Pianin
    teacher, retired


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