Soldiers take time to teach universal virtues to S. Korean kids
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Spc. Ahmed Khan will have a master’s degree in education next month, and he’s already taught English to South Korean students.
Khan, of 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Seoul Air Base, is one of 90 soldiers teaching South Korean elementary students through a unique USO program that also focuses on universal virtues. The Virtues Development Project has put soldiers in three South Korean elementary schools in a focused, organized English program.
“This was an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Khan, who taught at the Daemo Elementary School in Kangnam on Saturday. “It was really a fascinating experience the first time we went out there.”
USO Director Elaine Losey started the project, hiring a professional educator from New Zealand to write the curriculum. There are 16 lesson plans based on eight virtues picked by the South Korean elementary school to teach in the classroom — enough for one semester.
The education program explores certain virtues. Those within this program include commitment, courage, courtesy and humility, and responsibility.
“I know that education is the highest priority for any Korean who has a child,” Losey said. “Our desire is to create bridges between the Korean and American communities.”
Many units interacted with elementary schools with English programs before, but they were often loosely structured. In this program, every soldier receives about three hours of training before entering the classroom. They can consult detailed lesson plans for an efficient classroom.
Teachers and principals also receive two days of training, Losey said.
The classes have been held each Saturday at Itaewon, Namsan and Daemo elementary schools. Usually, two U.S. soldiers will teach with one KATUSA — a South Korean soldier assigned to a U.S. Army unit — translating, Losey said.
As opposed to other efforts teaching South Korean children, the same soldiers are scheduled to teach the same class every week, Losey said. Students, who range from 6 to 12 years old, benefit from the continuity, she said.
“It’s not just about teaching a class,” Losey said. “It’s about relationship building.”
“It’s a lot of fun for the soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Creed of the 17th Aviation Brigade. “The children are so energetic and enthusiastic.”
The Virtues Project also is part of U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Leon J. LaPorte’s Good Neighbor Program, intended to cool friction between the U.S. military and South Koreans.
“I think those soldiers get acquainted with students very quickly, looking beyond race and skin color,” said Itaewon Elementary School Principal Cha Dok-bae. “The children love them. I think those classes have been going pretty well.”
Choe Song-won contributed to this report.