Russian Educators Visit Campus

Utah is probably the healthiest state in the United States, according to a delegation of Russian educators who visited the University of Utah Oct. 31.

“No one drinks or smokes here,” delegate Yuriy Kurlapov said. “We’ve gotten the impression that both the adults and young people in Utah are very healthy. They must be the healthiest population in the nation.”

Accompanied by translators, the delegation visited the U as part of a three-week trip to Utah to learn more about the U.S. education system. They spent one day at the U, and will leave the state on Nov. 8. They are all administrators at private high schools in Russia.

They were hosted by the Salt Lake Rotary Club, but the delegates came to the United States through the Center for Citizen Initiatives Productivity Enhancement Program, which is based in San Francisco.

The delegates visited the state education offices, Westminster College, Guadulupe School, Juan Diego High School and the Horizonte Center.

“We feel like we’ve been working in a very special environment here,” Tatyana Merkulova said. “We have been received in a very special way.”

Merkulova is the director of the first Russian private high school, which was founded in 1989.

“We’ve gotten a pretty good picture of public and private education, especially high school education,” she said.

“We have the impression that the American system is continuous through all levels of education, from elementary schools to graduate schools,” Lyudmila Gunko said. “We want to take that back to Russia with us and help our system be like that.”

The visit to the U was centered in the College of Education, where faculty gave presentations which focused on public universities and high school principal training.

“We’re excited to learn more about school administrators. In Russia, there are no pedagogical schools,” Kurlapov said. “We have problems with training good teachers, but it’s three times harder to find administrators.”

The group visited the College of Education, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Utah Museum of Natural History. At the museum, they were very impressed with two students from an extracurricular outreach program.

“That’s a very good model, it’s a model we’d like to adopt,” Gunko said.

“The interaction between the students and teachers is amazing [in the United States], the communication creates really happy relationships,” Timofeyeva said.

Another aspect of the U.S. system is the technology in the schools.

“America has full equipment throughout the education process,” Gunko said.

“The technology [that] schools have is amazing,” Timofeyeva agreed.

The exchange is beneficial for both the Russian delegates and the U, said David Sperry, dean of the College of Education.

“It’s been good for both of us, for the faculty and obviously for [the delegates] because we have been able to have an exchange of views on the educational process,” he said.

One characteristic the delegates have picked up from their visit to Utah has been U.S. humor and sarcasm.

“We’ve been greatly impressed by the sense of humor in America. You are always teasing and picking on each other. Now we do that in our group,” Merkulova said.

The delegation found Utah residents not just healthy, but also very welcoming. “We stay with families while we’re here, so we’ve had the chance to meet a lot of people. They are so generous,” Lucia Zhurukova said.

Galina Zamorozova agreed.

“We are happily amazed by the family traditions in Utah. The people have such openness and interest in us, it’s great,” she said.

“The young people are very well-behaved and smart,” Larisa Timofeyeva said.

The group was also impressed with the knowledge and acceptance of the young people they have met during their visit.

“It’s been very pleasant because at every school, at least one student has said ‘hello’ to us in Russian,” Kurlapov said.

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