What are your first impressions of Slovakia?
Tyler: My first impression of Slovakia was, “wow, this place is beautiful!” I like living in a smaller town again, I like my co-workers and everything I need has been accessible enough, so I am very happy with Slovakia.
Lauren: Wow, Slovakia is a beautiful country. Being my first time in Europe, ever, Strečno Castle was probably the most exciting, beautiful piece of architecture I had ever seen. It really made me appreciate the “oldness” that this part of the world has to offer. I still continue to be impressed by the people of this country. Less than 30 years ago this country had a completely different atmosphere. Although there may still be lots to change, the people of this country are so resilient and the students and staff of CCE inspire me. They take pride in their community and want to better it through their service and talents. It is truly amazing to be a part of this community and to see how they are inspiring change.
Do you have a favorite Slovak food that you have tried?
Tyler: As a vegetarian there are some dishes that I don’t eat, but there are two that I have liked so far: vyprážaný syr (friend cheese) and bryndzové halušky (a potato dish similar to gnocchi).
Surprisingly, there are a multitude of options for vegetarians even within the small town of Martin. There are significantly more choices here than there were in South Korea.
Lauren: Vegan Holusky and cabbage soup are delicious! I’ve also made effort to immerse myself in the world of Slovak candy and wafer-chocolate bars.
Can you share some of the blessings you have experienced teaching at Lutheran Academy?
Tyler: The staff and students are great. This is my fifth year of teaching, and this has probably been the best experience I have had at a school.
Lauren: Having the opportunity to come to CCE everyday is a blessing. To get to have conversation our coworkers and to see the inspiration of Christ all around the school More specifically, the second year students put on an “open-house’ type event for the school. After teaching classes, I spent the entire day rest of the day with students helping to prepare food. Even after the event (when students were ‘suppose’ to be cleaning up) Tyler and I were with a group of about 15 students who willingly and eagerly engaged with us in conversation. They wanted to know about our lives and our opinions. This is definitely one of the most memorable experiences so far. Although I get to know students in class, it is such a blessing to be able to engage with them in a more natural environment and to get to know them on a more personal level. There are some truly amazing students at this school.
What are some of the challenges to your job?
Tyler: I teach three different subjects and multiple grades, so I end up having seven different lessons to plan each week, which can be very time consuming.
Lauren: It’s definitely a ton of work. I want to challenge the students as well as give them helpful feedback. Of course, this takes a lot of time. At times, I find that I write a long response to an essay, and it turns out to be longer than the essay itself! I’ve found that students are extremely involved in their school and community, and sometimes school falls second or third in their priorities. Like any student- in the USA, Korea, or Slovakia- inspiring motivation in education is always a challenge. But, for the most part, the students care so much about their grades and conscientiously want to do a good job.
What do you do in your free time here?
Tyler: On Wednesday nights I go to an English-speaking trivia night. I also try to explore other parts of Slovakia and its neighboring countries on the weekends with my wife, Lauren. So far, we have been to: Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, and Austria since we arrived in Europe.
Also, within Slovakia we have been to the following areas/places: High Tatras (Strbna Pleso to hike Krevan Peak and Tatranska Lomnica), Strecno castle, Spis Castle, Bratislava and Bratislava Castles, Budatin Castle, Zilina area, and mushroom hunting south of Martin (unknown location to me).
Lauren: We hike and travel whenever possible! The Tatra mountains are beautiful, and it is fairly simple to travel to nearby cities and even countries. We also attend a weekly trivia night at a local restaurant, which always proves to be a good time.
Do you have any funny or heartwarming stories from your classes?
Tyler: I love how the students still say thank you when I pass out their homework or exams. I’m sure they aren’t happy to be getting homework, or a big exam, but every time I pass it out they still say thank you!
Lauren: The first year students will always make me laugh. They had an assignment to teach the class about the culture of a decade in US history. They were required to utilize costumes, music, videos and engaging activities to teach the class. I will never forget the activities they came up with. We’ve rapped, danced, “dabbed” and have had Rubik’s cube challenges. Anytime a student really gets into an activity, it always makes my day!
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