Argentina exchange success for Ochocki

Ochocki, Chuck            Stillwater Junior High School Principal Chuck Ochocki’s summer trip to Argentina was no vacation.

Ochocki discussed his three-week Fulbright program exchange trip to Cordoba, Argentina, at Thursday night’s Independent School District 834 Board meeting.

Ochocki made the Argentina trip after hosting fellow educator Maria Alejandra Porte LaBordeof Cordoba at his home last fall. Ochocki told the board he was very grateful for the opportunity to pursue this option and learned much while he was there.

“What I thought was going to be a great vacation with a little learning turned out to be not much of a vacation at all,” Ochocki said with a laugh, “But it was great.”

While in Argentina Ochocki did the following:

  • Met the Fulbright Office staff and attended an all-day meeting about the history of the Argentinian school system.
  • Attended a Flag Day ceremony in the soccer stadium with the Governor of Cordoba.
  • Visited with the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Visited his assigned school and nine other schools at various different grade levels.
  • Chaperoned two field trips.
  • Served as a guest in an English class.
  • Presented to more than 2,000 people which included students, staff and the ministry of Education and the ministry of Science and Technology.

Ochocki’s presentation focused on both the similarities and differences in the education systems in the U.S. and Argentina.

“What I told them was that we are similar in the fact that teachers and students care about their education, their future and each other a lot,” Ochocki said. “The three main differences I observed were the fact that students don’t move to their classes throughout the day. They stay in the same classroom and teachers move around; the number of hours in school versus the number of subjects taken, and after-school opportunities.”

Ochocki said he always led his presentation with the statement: “I come from a larger school than this one. I have 1,200 students in my building.”

“Their eyes almost popped out of their heads when they heard that, they were shocked, but you have to know that their school probably isn’t any larger than this room (council chambers),” Ochocki said. “They also didn’t believe how long our kids stay in school and how many opportunities our students have that they can participate in.”

Ochocki said that Argentine students in grades K-12 only stay in school for about four hours a day and rotate the times when they come to school. He added that this only leaves time for the core subjects: language arts, math, world language and art. After-school activities are all done through clubs and are not controlled by the school.

When he opened the floor for questions, he said that without fail the first one was his age, followed by which soccer team was his favorite. Another topic that recurred many times was how people dealt with bullying and school discipline since the U.S. is seen as a pioneer in handling those topics.

“It was a really fun experience, I think I signed about 2,000 autographs during my time there, and I thought it was funny because really I’m just a principal. But the people were really nice and the kids were all high-fiving me all the time. It was really fun.” Ochocki said.

Some things Ochocki hopes to bring back to SJHS include:

  • Proyectos, or projects where in secondary school (grades 6-12) at the end of their sixth year, every student has to do a project in the humanities or on economics. One example he saw was how to put together a different system to improve a factory.
  • Figuring ways to create a school family with students. He liked how the students were always in the same class as they moved throughout the years. He said he won’t keep classes together but he’d like to explore a way to create a stronger bond between students through the school year.
  • Looking into adding Preceptorias. Although there’s no real translation for this, according to Ochocki, they are individuals who work with small groups of students to take the pulse on what’s happening in the school and with students. Ochocki said the preceptorias are assigned to these students throughout their secondary experience to help them through transitions and personalize their learning pathway.

Contact Avery Cropp at [email protected]