Teaching student from Norway experiences Cheyenne School

A Norwegian assistant teacher ... Ingrid Trostheim is a foreign teaching student visiting her fiance’ who is here on a business trip. For two weeks at the Cheyenne country school, the students and teacher, Tracey Swenson, taught Trostheim a little about the American education system. Back row: Jennifer Stangle, Ingrid Trostheim, Ben Swenson; middle row: Sam Stangle, Christian Swenson, Ben Stangle; front row: Colton Raab, Alaina Stangle, Brock Hanson. Not pictured are kindergarteners, Mark Stangle and Brianna Raab. Courtesy photo

Ingrid Trostheim, a 22 year old teaching student from Norway, assisted at the Cheyenne School for two weeks to experience American education.

Trostheim joined her fiancé, Hans Wold, who is in South Dakota on business for the Norsvin Company. She decided that she also could experience a different country, and she could experience a different school system.

Both Wold and Trostheim are staying with the Schon and Tanya Fillingim family at the Cheyenne Ranch near Milesville. Wold is there on business for the Norsvin Company of Norway. Norsvin specializes in research and product development for pork breeding, and the exportation of breeding animals. (A herd of breeding stock from Norway was brought to western South Dakota.)

Ingrid's parents were so supportive of her coming to America that they told her, "You have to go!" They wanted her to use the chance to see someplace different than Norway. She lives on an egg farm in central Norway. From her home, she has a breathtaking view of mountains and Norway’s largest lake, Lake Mjosa. The 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer were only an hour’s drive away.

Ingrid has found the Cheyenne School schedule to be quite different from school schedules in Norway. Norwegian students grades first through fourth attend school from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and most learning is done through play. “Students don’t even realize they are learning. They are just having fun,” said Trostheim. Students in grades fifth through seventh attend one and one-half hour longer, but spend two hours three times each week in vigorous outdoor activities such as football (soccer) or hiking in the woods. In Norway, students are not required to continue school after passing seventh grade, however most continue vocational training or prepare for university studies.

Trostheim noted differences in school discipline, food, and teaching between Norway and the United States. School discipline is currently an issue in Norway. In the past, Norwegian schools were too strict, and have eased up on discipline. Now, some people in Norway think that more discipline is needed in their schools.

Trostheim was very surprised by the food and drinks that children brought to school for their lunches. According to Trostheim, Norwegian students are allowed to eat only bread and drink milk or water at school. Seeing children eating chips and cakes and drinking soft-drinks was a surprise.

Teamwork is a large part of teaching in Norway. Teachers spend their afternoons in collaboration after students leave, and their day typically ends at 3:30 p.m.

The Cheyenne School students thoroughly enjoyed Ingrid's visit. They had fun learning about Ingrid and her homeland. “They frequently asked her how to say this or that in Norwegian. They were thrilled to get to work one-on-one with Ingrid or read their books aloud to her,” said Cheyenne School teacher, Tracey Swenson. “In a country school, individual time with an adult is at a premium, so the one-on-one interaction was coveted and beneficial for all.

“Ingrid spoke English well enough to communicate at a moderate pace. She sometimes became confused if someone talked too fast, but she said the visit helped her become more comfortable with English. She said that most Norwegians speak English very well, but it was not her favorite subject in school – she preferred math and science!” said Swenson.

Norway pays their teachers differently than the United States does. Pay is according to gender and age versus years of experience. Based upon the 2003 pay scale, a female teacher age 24-29 would be paid 25,089 Kr (Norwegian Crowns) and a male teacher age 24-29 would receive 25,338 Kr per month, before taxes. This translates into $3,859 and $3,898 per month respectively. According to Tracey Swenson, a first-year teacher in the Haakon school district receives $25,500 per year, or $2,125 per month, before taxes. Ingrid did point out, however, that things in Norway are much more expensive than they are here.

Since Ingrid prefers country living, she was pleased to spend time at a rural school. “I like the country school, but I can see it is much more work for the teachers than teaching one-grade classes of up to 30 students,” disclosed Trostheim. “Tracey is doing a very good job for the one-room school, and I can see she works very much.” Ingrid summarized her experience at Cheyenne, “This time has given me a lot of ideas, some I can take home to Norway. I have learned a lot about the teacher and the students.”

Now that Trostheim has finished two-weeks at Cheyenne School, she will tour South Dakota and go to Aspen, CO, for a skiing trip before returning to Norway. Trostheim is amazed by the differences between South Dakota and Norway. She enjoys the friendliness of the people and she likes South Dakota’s nature. Trostheim shares, “I wish I could stay here for a year and see all four seasons in this country.” Unfortunately, she will be returning to Norway on March 18. The Cheyenne students wish her well as she continues her education and begins her teaching career.