Teaching Russian Language and Culture Course at Local School

The Center for Slavic and East European Studies (CSEES), the Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures (DSEELC) and Columbus North International School (CNIS) have partnered to create a Russian Language and Eastern European Culture course taught by Greg Ormiston, Kathryn Metz and Ray Alston.

When the CNIS’ Russian teacher retired last year, Kenny Lee, the school’s principal, invited CSEES and DSEELC to continue the school’s Russian program by designing a course and contributing teachers. The partnership is made possible by DSEELC’s contribution of pedagogical resources and teachers, CSEES’ Title VI grant funds from the International and Foreign Language Education division of the federal Department of Education and CNIS’ dedication to provide quality language and cultural instruction to their students.

Greg Ormiston, a graduate student in DSEELC, is teaching the Russian language section fall semester; in the spring Ray Alston, also a graduate student in DSEELC, will take over. Kathryn Metz, outreach coordinator at CSEES, is supplementing the language section of the class by teaching two lessons on Eastern European culture each week. There are seven students in the class, ranging from 9th to 12th grade. Two of them previously studied Russian at CNIS, while the others are new to the language and culture.

“The CNIS students have enthusiastically embraced the challenge of learning Russian and they are quick learners,” said Ormiston. “Though the majority of the class had not studied the language before the beginning of the school year, they can already introduce themselves, talk about their families, nationalities, the languages they know and the clothes they wear. Their reading and writing skills are coming along well, and their vocabulary is growing every week. In class we have had a lot of fun learning the language through Russian culture as well (songs, cartoons, videos). In the coming weeks we are hoping to take a field trip to Ohio State to see what a Russian class is like at the university level, and to interact with some other Russian speakers.”

In the culture part of the class, Metz is teaching students the history, geography, religion and customs of the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. The students are fascinated to learn about this part of the world and are diligently undertaking the study of the rich history and traditions of the region. Thus far they have learned about the Russian empire and the most famous tsars, as well as the Ottoman Turkish occupation of the Balkans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

According to the students, the class is enriching and interesting.

“I like this class because it teaches us about different culture’s histories that normal world history classes don’t teach. It helps me understand the world a little better and makes me feel smarter,” said Stephanie, a 10th grade student. 

Ceara, a 12th grade student, agreed. “There is a lot of history that made Russia and Eastern Europe what it is today and I’m glad I have the opportunity to be in a class like this.”

Students from the Columbus North International School visited Ohio State in November to tour the campus and meet with students and faculty. In early March the students will have the opportunity to showcase their language skills at the 2017 high school Russian Olympiada, hosted by DSEELC and CSEES at Ohio State. The students will also have guest speakers from Ohio State visit their class. Justin Ciucevich, a CSEES MA student, visited the class for Halloween and gave a lecture on Vlad the Impaler and the history of Dracula in Romania. Other CSEES MA students will have the opportunity to visit Columbus North and present their research interests to the students, giving the students multiple voices and perspectives when learning about Eastern European culture.