Guests teach pupils about world

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On Elisee Mendo's first day guest-teaching French at Westminster Schools of Augusta, the questions poured in.

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Benji Lynch (left) looks on as Elisee Mendo, a teacher from Tanzania, talks with pupil Anna Ruth Owen. A new program at Westminster Schools brings international teachers into the classrooms to show pupils the world is bigger than Augusta.   Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Benji Lynch (left) looks on as Elisee Mendo, a teacher from Tanzania, talks with pupil Anna Ruth Owen. A new program at Westminster Schools brings international teachers into the classrooms to show pupils the world is bigger than Augusta.

To the surprise of some students, he arrived in dress pants and a collared shirt like he does every day at his school in the East African country of Tanzania.

"Some of them really thought in Africa everything is wild, everyone is living in the bushes," Mendo said. "They thought I'd come wearing a cloth," Mendo said laughing.

For a program aimed at showing students the world is much bigger than Augusta, Mendo is spending one week at Westminster teaching French language and culture classes. His visit from Africa is the first in the school's new teacher-in-residence program, which will bring international teachers into the classrooms.

Since his first day April 18, Mendo has led lessons in grammar, listening comprehension and cultural understanding.

After French classes, Mendo talked to students about religions practiced in Africa, what cars people drive and what education is like.

"I was expecting him to come teach us about what it was like in Africa, but I wasn't expecting his French to be so close to how Americans teach French," said Westminster junior Kelly McGahee.

Mendo said the experience is just as enriching for him as it is for the students. His life has always been about education, though he knows it could have been far different.

He grew up in a culture where children normally quit school before sixth grade. His parents could only afford to send one of their six children to school.

One of Mendo's brothers was chosen to go to boarding school, but when a missionary family offered to pay for him to go to college, the brother could not leave Mendo behind.

"My brother kneeled down crying and said, 'Please, if you love me would you give (the scholarship) to my brother?'" Mendo said.

With that, Mendo was able to go to college and become a teacher to hundreds of international students in Africa over the years.

While Mendo is the first educator to come through in the new residency program at Westminster, Headmaster Steve O'Neil said he hopes to continue the program each year.

Promoting cultural diversity is part of Westminster's mission statement and vital to a well-rounded student, O'Neil said.

"Rubbing shoulders with different people stretches students' minds," O'Neil said. "We want greater diversity, not only in our student body, but also in our faculty and staff. I believe that is part of a great education."


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