The United States of America is a country of diversity – people of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds gather from all over the world; Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, blacks, whites, yellows, reds, oranges, greens, purples and whatnot – and so is Wootton.
Along with the diversity of the students, there is also a mixture of teachers from different places, each with his or her own stories about the country’s important historical events.
Math teacher Alexandra Brasoveanu-Tarpy lived in Romania before she moved to the United States 18 years ago. She also witnessed the Romanian Revolution of 1989, which overthrew Communist Romania and installed a democratic government.
“You were always concerned with how to get your daily food,” Brasoveanu said. “But in Romania, you could walk to get to places, like grocery stores and the work place.”
While in Romania, she enjoyed some “Americana,” including singers like Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash. Though the communist government regulated the flow of Western goods and customs, many Romanians kept in touch with the American culture.
“The US is very interesting because of its multicultural differences. It’s hard to compare Romania to the US because they are two very different worlds,” Brasoveanu said.
Brasoveanu was a math teacher in the city of Bucharest, and was also the coach of the city’s math team. She and her students were in a retreat to the mountains preparing for a math competition when the revolution started.
“We were locked out in the mountains for 10 days, until the revolution ended in Christmas,” Brasoveanu said.
The city of Bucharest now has a cemetery honoring those who died during the revolution.
Later, Brasoveanu moved to the US and married her husband, who is from Kansas, and adopted a daughter from China. Now, she celebrates two New Years – one American and one Chinese.
Meanwhile, Spanish teacher Viviana Cruz was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and taught Spanish Literature to high school students there. She also worked in a college in Patagonia, the southernmost part of South America, and helped develop the first generation of Spanish Literature teachers there.
“It was rewarding to see that the students there could have teachers for themselves instead of having to go to the cities,” Cruz said.
With her father working for the US government, Cruz lived in a variety of places, including Spain, Mexico and Italy, besides Argentina and the US.
“Students in the US are wonderful, and I can say the same for other places,” Cruz said.
While she has enjoyed meeting people and visiting new places, she found certain differences between the US and the countries she has lived in.
“People in other places are not so tied up with routine. They find time to actually stop and smell the roses,” Cruz said.
However, she also noted that people in general are not bound to be different because of their nationalities.
“There is no real difference. It mostly depends on how you treat the others,” Cruz said.
In addition to teachers of South American and European origins, science teacher Dr. Mary Anne Fletemeyer was born in the Philippines, teaching physics in the city of Manila for a total of 16 years and witnessing the People Power Revolution that overthrew the Marcos regime in 1986.
When she was growing up, the Philippines used English as the medium of instruction, though the policy has changed now. She studied in a private all-girls Catholic school and watched English TV shows and movies, listening to music groups such as The Mamas & the Papas and the Beatles.
Although the country spoke the same language as the US, the public schools in the Philippines were unlike the schools here. When Fletemeyer was teaching, there were around 50 students in each class. The students cleaned their homerooms, and each homeroom was assigned a portion of a vegetable garden where the students would grow various types of plants.
“Kids were very respectful there,” Fletemeyer said.
In college, she taught to a body of diverse students, including those from Iran, Lebanon, Hong Kong, and so on.
It was during the years of her teaching that many Filipinos became disgruntled with President Ferdinand Marcos, who attempted to stay in power by declaring martial law and ordered the arrest of opposition leaders.
“It is hard to envision a country where people used to have private armies and could kill people,” Fletemeyer said.
From then on, there were clashes between protestors and the authorities, which often led to bloodshed.
“One time, I was teaching my students when a bullet came through the window,” Fletemeyer said. “Some of the students and teachers were convicted as Communists and shot.”
When the revolution started, Fletemeyer joined the movement, which eventually toppled the Marcos regime.
Despite the country’s hopeful mood after the revolution, Fletemeyer decided to move to the US, where many of her relatives lived. Since 2007, she has been teaching at Wootton.
“I’ve always considered the US as the land of opportunity. That was one of the motivations that drove me here,” Fletemeyer said.
Although they now teach in the same building, many teachers of Wootton have come from different parts of the globe and witnessed their countries’ important historical hours. But after all, the teachers are not the only ones with stories of their own. Students of Wootton – all of them from around the country and the world – also have plenty to share.
The life stories of the students, teachers and the faculty members all gather to form the diverse community of Wootton.
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