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Sep 7, 2008

Eleutian Expanding Company, Wants 2,000 Teachers

By FRED MILLER
Powell Tribune Staff Writer

As English education becomes more important in South Korea, experienced teachers and teachers-in-training in Wyoming stand to benefit.  Big Horn Basin-based Eleutian Technology has signed an agreement with an undisclosed Korean company, expanding Eleutian’s student base by an additional 3,000 students within the next few months.


“Over the next year, we’ll be coming up closer to 36,000 (total) students,” Eleutian president Kent Holiday said.


Holiday said he cannot yet publicly identify the partner company, which teaches English to junior high school students in South Korea.


Eleutian currently employs more than 170 certified teachers, who instruct South Koreans in English over the company’s website.


Because of the agreement, Eleutian plans to expand its teacher base during the next couple years to more than 2,000 teachers throughout the basin. The plan would divide teachers in two “tiers,” certified teachers, and teachers with only a high school diploma or G.E.D. The lower tier of teachers would receive college credit and a paid internship with the company through Northwest College.


“Hopefully, we’re going to increase the education level of people across the basin,” Holiday said.


Holiday traveled to South Korea earlier this month to iron out the agreement (called a “memorandum of understanding”) with the new client.


Mike Moore, Eleutian’s director of teacher operations, said Eleutian is taking advantage of a niche in the South Korean economy. South Korea’s new president, Lee Myung-bak, has made English education in his country a major focus of his administration.


South Korea has a population of almost 50 million people in an area less than half the size of Wyoming. About half the people live in Seoul, the capital.


Susan McClinton, who teaches and trains other teachers for Eleutian, said English skills are essential in Korea’s competitive business world.


“They are a very success-driven culture,” she said.

Last spring, Eleutian and Northwest College signed a memorandum of understanding with Seoul Digital University. This March, the university will add 500 to 1,000 more students to Eleutian’s roster.


Eleutian began in 2006 with a pilot program that used the town-wide fiber-optic system available in Ten Sleep. Moore said Eleutian trained 166 of its more than 170 teachers in the past year alone. Workforce development grants from the state of Wyoming have financed the training.


The company has taken out a great deal of advertising for new teachers. By the end of this year, Eleutian hopes to have about 500 total teachers.


The company may seek students in Japan and other Asian countries. They will likely also have to find teachers elsewhere in Wyoming and in other states, Moore said.


“Right now, we’re only focused on Wyoming,” he said.

As demand grows, more teachers are working with large groups of students, rather than one-on-one, which has been the company’s norm.


Last fall, the Park County Commission made a suite in the Park County Complex available for Eleutian’s use in exchange for a nominal amount of rent and an agreement that TCT West (a partner to Eleutian) will install fiber-optic cable in the facility.


Holiday said the fiber would make it easier to add more teachers, but it has not yet been installed. High-speed wireless equipment from TCT allows Eleutian to operate well with the number of teachers it currently has.