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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 17 - 23, 2003


Czech teacher
settles into class

Experience becomes more
than year in mountains

Express Staff Writer

The Czech Republic and Idaho have little in common, yet Stepanka Kloudova, her husband Vlasta Klouda and their daughter Aneta are living here for a year. (Ova at the end of a Czech name denotes a woman.)

Stepanka Kloudova oversees students in her classroom. photo by Katie Rafetto

Kloudova is on a Fulbright Teacher and Administrator Exchange Program, which since 1946, has helped nearly 23,000 teachers and administrators teach abroad, paired with another teacher. Teachers go through a lengthy application process before being selected. She was offered a job in Pennsylvania that fell through. Sun Valley’s Community School was her second offer.

Ryan Waterfield, an English teacher at The Community School, is now teaching English as a second language in Kloudova’s hometown of Ceske Budejovice. Kloudova is filling her shoes here teaching English and an elective course, Eastern European History.

Klouda, a music and Czech language teacher at the private school in Ceske Budejovice, is taking a year off from work. He is giving a concert of Bach and Czech Christmas music on the organ 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22, at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Sun Valley.

Aneta is enrolled in third-grade at Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum.

"It’s extremely demanding," Kloudova said about her position at The Community School. "It’s so different from what I teach, which is English as second language."

In the Eastern European History class, she covers history, geography, film and literature. "I expected it to be challenging, and it is."

She said during her very first lesson she taught the students where the Czech Republic and her town are actually located. Known in German as Budweis, Ceske Budejovice is the town whose brewing skills were so renowned that the American brewery Anheuser-Busch bought the brewery there and began using the name Budweiser—beer from Budweis—in 1876.

This fact, related as a matter of course by Kloudova, is merely to explain where they live. Chic and trim with long black hair, Kloudova looks every inch a European. She is also a ski instructor for her home school, taking students to the Austrian Alps every year, and is excited to try out Bald Mountain. The family also cross-country skis. They’re living in Elkhorn.

"It’s a nice change, not just meeting new people but to improve my language. I was taught British English. Now, I have to learn American English. American kids know very little about their own language," Kloudova said she has discovered. In the writing labs there are a lot of grammatical gaps, she said. "I am trying to implement these things from my own language experience into the curriculum."

Aneta is also getting used to the U.S.education system.

"At Hemingway, in my opinion, there are higher demands in discipline," Kloudova said. "During classes our children get up and move around and go to the bathroom and eat if they want to. There is also more homework. For me, personally, it is interesting, because Czech children are doing at 10 years old, what 14 and 15 year olds do here. We have more emphasis on sciences, and math and physics are extremely difficult in high schools. The demands are very high. Here, there is more emphasis on humanities."

As in some other European countries, Czech children can choose to attend a selective school where certain subjects are stressed. It increases the possibilities for entrance to the better universities. Called gymnasiums, the high schools were founded in 1989.

Every student at a gymnasium must learn two foreign languages. Russian and German used to be the most widely taught as a second language due to proximity to those countries and, not incidentally, what government was in power. Now, English and German are taught equally often.

"For us this is extremely important," Kloudova said. Even so, not having their native language to fall back on can be a little isolating, both in work and socially, though they have been introduced to some Germans and an Austrian who has a Czech wife.

Culturally, they notice many differences between Idaho and their home. Kloudova, as though repeating her history lessons, notes the Czech Republic’s historical flirtations with democracy. This last republic, the longest yet at nearly 15 years, included a separation of Slovakia from the Czech Republic. Because a free market is still new to many Czechs, "People are still learning how to behave, especially in service areas," Kloudova said.

She said the norm was always, and still continues to be much of the time, that the business person, restaurant or shop worker was in control. Here, she said, people are much friendlier and outgoing in these capacities.

Depending on a car to get around is also, for many Europeans, a bit of a jolt when they come to the United States. Unfortunately, the used car they bought when they arrived in August has since "died," Kloudova said. Recently, they rented a car to spend the Thanksgiving break exploring Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon national parks.

Before the snows finally arrived, the family had been hiking most weekends. "We love the countryside," Klouda said. "We can’t sit in front of television or stay in one place."

After the school year is finished the family plans on traveling throughout the United States before going home.

"I was always dreaming of spending a year in a ski resort," Kloudova said while looking out a window at the snow falling on a December evening.



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