Sonoran education official visits Mesa schools

The Arizona Republic

Sept. 15, 2005

At one table, students use calculators and computers to practice money and budgeting skills. Across the room, a group practices writing and editing through journal writing. In another area, students are helping peers work on life skills.

Last week, these typical third-hour activities in Orson Baumann's classroom at Carson Junior High School attracted the attention of state-level educators from Sonora, Mexico.

The visitors were interested because regular education students spend time with Baumann's students, who have autism. Students learn from one another and gain an understanding of the differences they have. The classroom relationship promotes a sense of belonging for the teens.

"The interaction between these different groups of students is marvelous to see and presents benefits to all the students equally," said Horacio Soria Salazar, secretary of education for Sonora, Mexico.

"They had lots of questions, from discipline to the availability of computers," Baumann said.

The group from Sonora also spent time observing the Family Tree Program at Lowell Elementary School. In one room, parents were practicing their English language skills by singing while their children ate a snack next door in the preschool.

Parents also take classes to enhance parenting skills, help their children with homework and gain strategies for effectively communicating with teachers. Many also work toward a General Equivalency Degree.

"The adults enroll for their children and later realize they, too, are gaining benefits," said Christine Niven, family literacy specialist.

Sonoran officials congratulated the parents on furthering their skills and taking an active role in their child's education. The visiting educators said they wanted to create similar family educational opportunities for their citizens, Niven said.

"There is much we can learn from one another," said Yamilett Martinez Briseņo, director of International Exchanges for Sonora. "I look forward to hosting staff as well as sending our educators to Mesa to learn more about these great programs."