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Teaching Ukrainian Refugees

BSU student-teachers educate youngest victims of war

More than 28,000 Ukrainians have fled to Ireland since late February when Russia invaded their country. In Dublin, Erin Haley, G’22, and Adlai Greene, ’22, taught some of the youngest victims of the war.

The Bridgewater State University students recently worked with the refugees during an eight-week international student-teaching experience.

“It’s hard in the moment to process what has happened, that these children have experienced war,” Erin said. “Even though there’s been destruction and devastation and things I can’t even put into words that these children have experienced, they return to school.”

Erin and Adlai were impressed by the students’ perseverance.

“They’re really courageous,” said Adlai, an elementary education and English major. “They are in the classroom eager to learn and give their best. I can’t imagine how difficult it is.”

Erin and Adlai worked in classes at Our Lady Immaculate Senior National School that are roughly equivalent to the sixth grade in the United States. They are among the first student-teachers to travel overseas since the pandemic caused the suspension of in-person international programs.

Erin Haley works with two students at a table.

“Being abroad gives us an opportunity to really apply what we’re learning to a curriculum we don’t know,” said Erin, who is from Kingston and pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education. “It really encourages us to grow.”

Ukrainian children are largely integrated with their Irish counterparts, though Erin and Adlai also worked separately with three students. They helped them improve their English with lessons on verb tenses and forming sentences.

Drawing from their Bridgewater courses, they became caring figures in the Ukrainian students’ lives.

“I think BSU in general tries to prepare us to approach the student as a whole and think about everything that could be affecting the student,” Adlai said. “As a teacher, I can come in and be the support system for them.”

Neither Bridgewater student expected to teach refugees during their time in Ireland.

“To be able to be directly involved in some way has been a really unique experience,” Adlai said

Added Erin: “That has been a really powerful part of our experience.”

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