Madeira teacher takes part in exchange program

By Regina Villiers. Originally published in The Suburban Life September 20, 2000. Added September 17, 2020.

Jeanne LeBlond, left, and Margot Schauer, a Munich, Germany teacher, stop by the statue of Miami Chief Little Turtle at a park in Covington, Ky. last April, when Margot spent two weeks in the Cincinnati area as an exchange teacher.

     Jeanne LeBlond lives Madeira and teaches at Elmwood Place.  She has long suspected that she has the best job in the world.  Now, she’s sure of it.

     This past school year, she took part in the Cincinnati-Munich Teachers Exchange Program.  She was paired with a teacher from Munich, Germany.  The two of them spent time together in each other’s country and school, exchanging teaching experiences and cultures, and forging friendships.

     Five teachers from Munich came here in April to be paired for two weeks with five Cincinnati area teachers.  Each stayed in the home of the host teacher.

     Jeanne was paired with Margot Schauer, who stayed with the LeBlond family.  Some of the activities of the 10 teachers were shared; so all 10 got to know each other.  The two-paired teachers, however, spent most of the time together.  As a result, Margot became bonded with the entire LeBlond family.  

     Jeanne’s Elmwood Place School had a welcome breakfast for Margot, and the two spent quite a bit of their time there.

     Jeanne teaches first and second grades in a system called “looping.”  She has the same students for two years.  She starts out with a group in the first grade.  Then she carries on with the same students through second grade.  After that, she loops back and starts with a new first-grade class, taking them through second grade.

      She loves the concept.  “You really bond with the kids,” she said.  “After two years together, you get to know them well.”

     Jeanne and Margot also spent time in Madeira’s schools.  They toured the high school, where Principal Chris Mate was most courteous and helpful to them.  They spent two days at Sellman School, where the LeBlonds’ son, Jay, is a student.  They attended the Sellman “Olympics,” which is held annually.

     They also went to Scarlet Oaks.

     While the emphasis was on schools and education, learning the culture of the host country also is emphasized in the program.  During Margot’s stay here, she did sightseeing and recreational activities with Jeanne and her family.

     They toured Cincinnati.  The visited parks.  They went to the Dude Ranch in Lebanon.  They went to Kentucky parks.  The attended cookouts and visits with friends, letting Margot learn about everyday life here.  They also saved time for a taste of “fine dining” at better eating-places.

     In June, Jeanne and the other four Cincinnati teachers went to Munich to study the schools there and to absorb the culture.

     Jeanne lived with Margot’s family, as Margot had done while she was here.  They did many of the same things there as they had done here during Margot’s stay.

     They spent time in Munich schools.  They toured Munich and the surrounding area.  Jeanne was impressed with Munich.  They went to the opera, which she loved.

     Jeanne found the countryside breathtakingly beautiful and interesting.  She enjoyed the people who were extremely friendly.  She enjoyed living with Margot’s family and being accepted as a family member.  Margot has two sons.

     After she finished her stint as an exchange teacher, Jeanne’s husband, Jim, and their children, Katie and Jay, joined her.  She met them in London, and the entire family then took a tour of Europe for the summer vacation of their lives.  It was a dream trip for the whole family.

     During their tour, they went to Germany where Jeanne saw even more of the country than she had seen with Margot.  They took a boat trip down the Rhine, which Jeanne said was incredible.

     “It was beautiful,” she said.  “and there were castles every where, on both sides.”

     It was a trip none of the LeBlonds will ever forget.

     Nor will Jeanne forget being an exchange teacher.  Her most memorable moment was climbing to the top of a mountain in the Alps.  “It was such an incredible feeling of achievement, to stand there and look at that breathtaking view,” she said.

     But she feels the most valuable thing she got from the experience was learning about the culture of another country and the friendships she made.  She feels as if Margot is a part of her family now.  They stay in touch all the time, as do the other teachers who came.

     “This is a wonderful program for teachers,” Jeanne said.  “I wish more schools would promote it, with more teachers taking part.”