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Jun 13, 2010

Asian students learn from Wyoming teachers Same job, strange hours

By JACKIE BORCHARDT - Star-Tribune staff writer

Hours after her daughters have gone to bed, Rose Crossen prepares to teach her first class of the day.

She arrives early to look at the materials for that day's lesson. She downloads the lesson plan from the class website. She finds the color workbook pages that the students will use. She finds places to incorporate props, such as a Mr. Potato Head toy, into the lesson.

Then she arranges her notes on the desk and sticky notes on the monitor and puts on the headset, opens the videochat program and enters a "classroom" arranged on the screen. She can see her students sitting at desks in Korea, and they can see her sitting in her cubicle in Casper. A Korean teacher is present in the classroom to assist students when Crossen cannot.

Class starts at midnight Mountain Time -- 3 p.m. Korea Standard Time.

Crossen teaches English to two classes of third-graders in Korea. While Casper slips into a new day, Crossen's Korean students have finished the school day and begun after-school programs such as English language lessons.

The time difference and schedule haven't affected Crossen.

"When you're here and you're teaching, you get so energized from working with the kids," Crossen said.

Crossen joined Eleutian Technology's fleet of teachers in Casper a few weeks ago. The Wyoming-based company opened its 10th and largest teaching center in Casper and plans to hire 200 teachers by the end of the year.

About 15 teachers were hired and 40 teachers are in the process of being hired. Teachers must have substitute or standard teaching certification and undergo a series of interviews and hours of training.

"One of the advantages of hiring teachers is they know how to get information accross," said Mark Berry, Casper center teacher and manager.

Berry's background is in engineering. After years of teaching in the business world, he joined Eleutian in Thermopolis because it offered the opportunity to work from home. Teachers, including those at the Casper center, can move up the ladder and teach from home after a few months, Berry said.

"We have to -- we've only got 50 stations here," Berry said.

Eleutian teaches children ages 7 to 16 through contracts with the Korean Ministry of Education and to employees at private businesses, many of them global corporations such as General Motors. English is a highly valued skill in Korea and other Asian countries, Berry said, and many companies pay for their employees to learn English either before or after work.

That means 3 to 6 p.m. or 6 to 9 a.m. Mountain Time, a shift Mark Brady has been working for three weeks. Brady finished his degree in teaching secondary English at the University of Wyoming this spring but couldn't find a job in a school district. Brady was attracted to Eleutian because he previously taught abroad and taught Korean students in Utah.

"I've learned they do the same things we do -- go to movies, go to restaurants," Brady said.

Brady's students call him from their cell phones, so he doesn't have to worry about shaving or looking too sharp. Lessons last about 20 minutes. He hopes to start teaching on camera to Korean classrooms soon.

Teaching by camera can be difficult for teachers used to moving around in a classroom, but it can be done well, Crossen said.

"It's amazing that we can teach to anywhere in the world," Crossen said. "There are real classroom experiences going on here."

Reach education reporter Jackie Borchardt at (307) 266-0593 or at jackie.borchardt@trib.com. Read her education blog at tribtown.trib.com/reportcard

For more information...

Eleutian Technology is hiring certified teachers for shifts from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m. To learn more or apply, go to the website www.eleutian.com