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New Salem Elementary hosts Thailand principal

Sumet Jeadpiyawat, from the Chiangrai Province in Thailand, and his interpreter Soontaree Davidson, tell students at New Salem Elementary School about Thailand.

Thanks to an exchange program funded by the US and Thailand governments, New Salem Elementary has been the host of a principal from Thailand for the past two weeks.   
Sumet Jeadpiyawat, from the Chiangrai Province in Thailand, is the director (principal) of Chiangsaen Witthayakom. “I’m very excited that he is here,” said New Salem principal Neil Hawkins. “Sumet has a great personality. We got to know each other and became friends very quickly. Our goals are the same – getting to know about each other’s country and the education in each other’s country.”
Although he does quite well with English, he arrived with an interpreter, Soontaree Davidson, who was provided by the State Department. 
New Salem was one of eight schools across the United States to win the bid to become part of the Thailand exchange program. “We will develop a partnership between our two schools,” Hawkins said. “The actual exchange piece is between the two principals.”
Hawkins will go to Thailand this summer, a guest of Jeadpiyawat. The timing of school calendars makes it possible for the two principals to visit each other’s schools because the breaks are at different months.
Jeadpiyawat’s school, which serves grades seven through 12, sits on a campus that is between 15 to 20 acres large, housing three large three-story buildings, an auditorium and a shop. His school has about 60 teachers.
Like in the US, Jeadpiyawat’s schools have two semesters. The first begins in May and ends in September. The second semester begins in November and ends in March. “This is determined by the seasons,” Jeadpiyawat said. “June and July are the rainy season, so people are farming.”
Jeadpiyawat has been in education a total of 32 years, 12 as a principal. “I am very proud that I can join with this program,” he said. “My primary goal is to look at the American school system and culture. My secondary goal is to come up with some type of exchange program in the future, either between teachers and students or people in the community.”
Jeadpiyawat said he instantly felt at home at New Salem. “It’s very welcoming, nurturing here,” he said. “I hope to teach New Salem students about Thailand. I hope to teach them where Thailand is located. I hope to also tell them about some of our culture.”
An example of cultural differences is the way a person from Thailand says hello and goodbye. When meeting someone in his country, one bows his head as a sign of respect, with his hands touching in front as in prayer. Jeadpiyawat has learned the American form of greeting, which includes shaking one’s hand.
During his visit, Jeadpiyawat has visited numerous UCPS schools, met local officials, and has tasted some local cultural such as Carowinds, area coffee shops and the Charlotte Symphony.
He returns home Thursday, April 29, 2010, as his school reopens in May.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Apr 28, 2010 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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