Portland High School alumnus Victoria Wilson (2011) spent the last month of her senior year at Western Kentucky University participating in the International Student Teaching program in Ireland.
Wilson was assigned to work at Gaelscoil na Gruaiche where she worked with second class (grade) students.
It is called a reform school because the Irish people are trying to bring back some of their dying culture. The children at this school are immersed in the Irish language Galescoil.
Wilson had the choice of working at an English speaking school or an Irish speaking school.
“I felt a strong cultural interest in Scottish culture and Ireland was similar,” Wilson said.
She had a 30-minute walk to school everyday — more often in the rain than not. She walked through the Westport House grounds on the way to school. The Westport House is considered the most beautiful house in Ireland.
During the students’ five-hour school day, they are taught English, French, and Irish languages, which they learn to speak fluently. Music is an important part of their curriculum, where they learn dance and how to play the violin in their early years. Art classes are also an important part of their education.
“Everyone at the school spoke Galescoil. I used the students’ body language and looked at the worksheets they were doing to help me communicate. Math was the easiest to teach because there was less of a language barrier,” Wilson said.
She worked with the children on spelling, grammar, and reading comprehension skills.
The staff welcomed the student teachers, and made them feel especially welcome by preparing a Thanksgiving feast for them when the holiday was being celebrated in the United States. The student teachers went from class to class teaching the students the history and traditions of the holiday.
“The language barriers have been wonderful and help me to empathize more with ESL students as well as parents that have language barriers,” Wilson explained.
Wilson took a bus trip to Galway, Ireland for shopping, sightseeing and exploring. She enjoyed traditional Irish music from street performers while visiting the city.
“The towns that I passed through to get to my destination were beautiful. Many of the towns had stone work and luscious green fields,” Wilson said.
On Saturdays the student teachers would explore the town of Westport, where they enjoyed the atmosphere, people, and food in the Irish community. Westport has small shops, local markets, and narrow roads.
“Traveling is very hard or a struggle in some areas. The main means of transportation is by bus, train, or car,” Wilson said.
Wilson took a tour to Croagh Patrick Mountain. It is one of the most famous mountains to climb in West Ireland, and many tourists come to the area to make the climb.
She was also able to visit the Cliffs of Moher. During the tour, she was able to see scenic views of the countryside, Atlantic Ocean, and castles.
“I was able to learn about the culture and history of Ireland during the tour,” Wilson wrote on her blog at itravel-ireland.blogspot.ie
Wilson commented that the trip was a dream come true for her.
She is the daughter of Byron and Denise Wilson of Portland.