JAPANESE teacher Peta Ikeda has a celebrity status across regional Victorian schools.
Ms Ikeda’s live, virtual lessons are beamed into classrooms on large screens – and she is like a television star.
Behind the camera, all the magic plays out from a small classroom in Trawalla Primary School.
Ms Ikeda’s reach goes far beyond Trawalla’s cluster schools in the Pyrenees. She taps into classes as far as Apsley in the Wimmera, up north near Swan Hill and Shelford primary outside Geelong.
There is interest from the Catholic Education Office in Canberra to introduce Ms Ikeda’s lessons as part of a pilot program in their own virtual language programs.
When The Courier visited, Ms Ikeda was instructing a class at Waubra primary, just like a teacher out the front of the class, but via the video conferencing system.
Trawalla principal Kate Morcombe said it was hard for regional schools to access their own language teachers.
There are initiatives across the state for cluster schools to share language teachers and Trawalla was excited and proud to share Ms Ikeda beyond their boundaries with fellow schools learning Japanese.
“We can help provide that program for them,” Ms Morcombe said. “The (education) department is making a film about Ms Ikeda to show what she does and how she works. It’s a cost-effective way to offer language programs in small schools.
“...Children really do get excited when she comes across to their schools because she’s like a celebrity to them, they’re usually only seeing her on the telly.”
Trawalla pupils have in-person lessons with Ms Ikeda on Wednesday afternoons. They will do origami and other arts but lessons, like those who tune-in via conferencing, have a strong language and cultural focus.
Video conferencing has also allowed Trawalla pupils to speak with a friendship school in Japan.
Trawalla was one of the first Australian schools to take part in the Japan Art Mile project, four years ago.
In shared classes, pupils exchanged cultural boxes (packages with items that represented their region) and painted a mural together that was joined and put on display in a museum at Nagoya. Trawalla’s cluster schools joined in a similar program the next year to share in the cultural experience.
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