BRANDON-For teachers, staff and students enrolled at the Neshobe Elementary School this year, the world has come to their doorstep.
The Brandon school community has enjoyed befriending a visiting Australian student, his teacher parents, and a special guest Chinese teacher. And for this rural school, these foreign faces have been a sturdy bridge of friendship across many thousands of miles.
Australian married couple Leon Syme and Margaret Mulvey, of Humpty Doo, N.T., along with their children Neva and Charlie Syme, have been in residence here since last fall. The husband and wife teaching team qualified for a two-year-long sabbatical from their Australian jobs; they chose to travel the world with their children. They included three months in Vermont to learn more about life here as well as observe local teaching methods.
Both Syme children are enrolled in the Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union. Neva is an 8th grader at Otter Valley High School and Charlie is a third grader at Neshobe School.
"We get asked how we got from hot, humid Australia to Vermont a lot," Leon said. "Well, we've been teaching in the Northern Territory for eight years. Part of the incentive to teach in this remote region is that you earn points for the amount of time you teach for the territory schools. Margaret and I earned two years leave, so here we are!"
The Aussie couple found a comfortable house to rent in Goshen near Blueberry Hill and have enjoyed cross-country skiing and playing in the snow for the first time in their lives.
"We knew Vermont was going to be cold, but we had no preconceptions about the place," Leon added. "We've never seen snow before so here we are - experiencing the worse Vermont winter in 30 years. But we adjusted quickly. We like it. Still I can't comprehend how to describe this experience to my Aboriginal students when we return home."