July 2012

Teacher Encounters Turkish Culture Abroad

Social studies teacher Tony Ricciuto spent two weeks studying and sight-seeing in Turkey this summer as part of an exclusive, all-expenses paid international tour of the country.

As one of three area educators selected by the Dayton Council on World Affairs to take part in the two-week cultural study, Ricciuto joined about 30 other teachers from across the United States who spent June 29 through July 12 immersed in Turkish architecture, history, art, education and faith life.

“I wanted to experience what it is like going to an Islamic country,” Ricciuto said. The trip, funded by a grant from the Turkish Cultural Foundation, is meant to educate teachers about the contributions of Turkish culture.

Turkey is considered an emerging leader in the global economy and is a strong ally of the United States. While it is one of the few secular states in the Muslim world, the country – which is situated northeast of Syria and Iraq – has a population consisting nearly entirely of Islamic people (99.8 percent, according to www.cia.gov).

On their journey, study participants visited landmarks including the Temple of Artemis and the ancient city of Troy; attended presentations by non-governmental organizations; and made several stops at rural and urban schools around Istanbul.

“To have that type of experience and to be able to bring that back and relay it to our students is far different than having them read about it in a book,” Ricciuto said.

Although it wasn’t his first cultural study abroad, Ricciuto said this new experience affords him fresh perspectives on teaching CJ students enrolled in U.S. Government, European History and World Cultures courses. In recent years, he has also traveled to meet Holocaust survivors in Poland, attend teacher conferences in Beijing, and visit France, Germany and the United Kingdom as a chaperone on student trips.

In the fall, Tony will begin his 21st year in the social studies department at CJ. He has taught for 32 years, 27 of which have been served at Catholic institutions.


Summer Break on the British Isles

Just days after penciling in final exam answers this past June, a group of CJ students were off collecting passport stamps in the countries comprising the British Isles. Their time spent in Eastern Europe June 11-21 was equal parts leisure and learning.

Traveler Courteney Muhl, ‘13, detailed the group’s daily experiences – and the lessons each presented – during the Eagles’ 10-day stay on the other side of the Atlantic.

On Day 1, students and chaperones met at CJ before heading to the Cincinnati Airport for a flight to Newark, N.J. After a six hour layover, we flew overnight to Shannon, Ireland. Despite a lengthy and uncomfortable flight, it was exhilarating to finally land in the United Kingdom after months of anticipation.

The morning of Day 2, we dove directly into exploring Ireland by getting oriented with the other branches of our tour group. It was an unexpected delight to travel and share the adventure with students from schools in Iowa, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

All of us were transported by charter bus from the Shannon International Airport to the small tourist town of Killarney. On our way, we stopped for lunch in a tiny village called Adare. From the outskirts of Killarney, we took what natives call a “jaunt” – a ride in a carriage pulled by horse – through the plains down by the Lower Lake. Making our way to town, we checked into our inn and ate dinner, then had free reign to explore Killarney with the other students. The four-block town was personable and friendly.

Traveling Takeaway 1: Euro vs. Pound – Learning to understand the currency exchange was one of the most interesting and educational components of the trip. We were forced to budget and be aware of the changing rates as we traveled through Ireland, Wales, Scottland and England.

We toured a scenic highway known as the Ring of Kerry on Day 3. The Ring, which circles the coast of Ireland, led us through the gorgeous landscape where we saw bog villages, sheep farms, and tiny oceanfront villages. We also witnessed a shepherd and his team of dogs flawlessly lead a flock of sheep across treacherously steep hills, and explored huts warmed exclusively by the earthy smell of a peat fire.

After what seemed like an endless day traversing the country’s postcard hills, it felt dreamlike to spend the rest of the night listening to live music and cheering on Ireland’s national soccer team at the village pub, where we celebrated Mr. Ricciuto’s birthday. The entire day was an Irish treat!

Exiting the small town that had been our home for two days, we began Day 4 by traveling toward Ireland’s capital, Dublin. Along the way, we were thrilled to stop and explore the village of Blarney and its famous castle. Each of us attempted to earn the Irish “gift of gab” by kissing the renowned Blarney Stone before we left.

Rain dampened midday explorations but not group spirits, as we pulled into Dublin. We were warmly welcomed for dinner, and checked into our hotel for the night. The next day, we stopped at Trinity College and admired its grand Library, home to the Book of Kells. The book is believed to be the first transcript of the Bible and was recorded using a technique known as insular illumination.

The rest of our day in Dublin was packed with fast-paced excitement. Samplings of the city’s food, music, and culture supplemented our visits to the Phoenix National Park and the elegant manor of the US Ambassador.

Traveling Takeaway 2: Faith Transcends Time and Space – The time we spent in the national cathedral learning about the Book of Kells was an experience close to home. It was incredible to make the connection between our faith and the faith of the people on the Isles despite being thousands of years and miles apart.

Early Day 6, we departed from the Dublin Port for Angsley, Wales – a three and a half hour trip by ferry. Castles dotted the Welsh countryside. These landmarks made the drive to Manchester, England – our third country of the day – a phenomenal lesson in European history.

From Manchester, we headed north for most of Day 7 en route to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scottland. The city was a favorite of many for its incredible beauty. We shopped downtown, explored lush parks and hiked the monstrous plateau known as Arthur’s Seat for a birds-eye view of the city and its shared coast with the Atlantic Ocean.

On Day 9 we departed for London, the last and most anticipated destination of the tour. In contrast to the peaceful, small-town warmth of our other Isle stops, London provided an intense and fast-paced atmosphere. We were lucky to be traveling in the capital during its preparation for the upcoming Olympic games. In addition, the celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee was also taking place, which meant monumental festivities for Westminster and the Royal Castle.

I was fascinated by the high regard people had for the British monarchy as well as the modern fashion district of London. We enjoyed our two days in the big city before departing by flight from Heathrow International Airport for the long return trip home.

Traveling Takeaway 3: Transit Tips in the Big City – We learned another huge lesson in responsible traveling while using the London Underground – the city’s subway system. Riders, especially tourists, must keep watch for the many pickpockets present. For reference, Londoners compare the atmosphere and pace in their city as being similar to the quick life of New York City.


Celebrating July 4 with Friends from Spain

A couple of CJ students reunited with their correspondants from Spain this July 4 and celebrated America’s birthday with the friends they first encountered overseas during the second semester of the 2011-12 school year.

Since rendezvousing  with pen pals on their nine-day trip to Madrid in March 2012, soon-to-be seniors Maria Chabali and Maria Wade have brushed up on their Spanish and are now returning the hospitality this summer to three students from Colegio Santa Ana y San Rafael, a Marianist sister school located in the country’s capital city.

CJ families introduced the Spaniards to the unique and fun American holiday traditions associated with the Fourth of July, punctuating their three-week student exchange experience with a bang on Wednesday. But before the fireworks got started, guests Claudia B., Laura F., and Laura M. had a blast Monday, July 2 touring CJ's campus and meeting students in Peg Regan's summer Honors Spanish 4 class. In the Food Lab, the girls prepared a patriotic dessert for their host families using blueberries, strawberries and whipped topping.

According to Regan, Spanish teacher and foreign languages department chair, the CJ summer Honors Spanish 4 students will take a short mid-week break in observance of Independence Day and reconvene with the two Marias and their three guests Friday to help lead a sight-seeing tour of Dayton. 

Regan has offered an annual trip to Spain for CJ students since the early 1980’s, and began teaching summer Spanish in 2007 in order to make the course available to those with scheduling conflicts. She said she looks forward to giving their visitors a taste of American interpretations of Spanish cuisine at the 2nd Street Market downtown during their tour of the city.