Friday, April 01, 2011

TOP STORY > >Pen pal visits Warren Dupree

Leader staff writer

Europe became closer for youngsters at Warren Dupree Elementary as a German pen pal made a visit to the school this week.

School principal Janice Walker, who is also command sergeant major of the Army Reserve’s 489th Engineer Bat-talion based at Camp Robinson, invited Lt. Col. Wolfgang Geiss of the German armed forces to visit the school.

Walker met Geiss in June during Army training at Fort McCoy, Wis. Geiss was participating in the U.S. Army officer- exchange program.

“I thought it would be interesting and exciting for students to email and communicate with someone from another country,” Walker said.

When Walker presented the idea to the school of having a pen pal, Mendy Lemoine’s third-grade class took the lead. The class exchanged emails and photos with Geiss who lives in Essen, Germany.

In November, the students sent handwritten letters to him. Geiss said he responded to every letter with a package he sent to the school. He included a map showing the German states, information on the Euro currency and sent German candy for the students.

Geiss has been in the German military for 22 years. He is retired, but is still involved in the military part time. The unit he is assigned to oversees all of Germany’s army helicopters. Geiss spent two years deployed in the former Yugoslavia from 1997 to 1999.

“I was a liaison officer to American and French units assigned to Germany. I trained a lot of foreign officers in German training and arms,” Geiss said.

In his civilian career, Geiss works in strategies and planning for German government health insurance.

Geiss holds two master’s degrees in business economics and international business studies.

He also has a degree in personnel-team coaching.

Geiss was invited to visit Dupree Elementary, so he used his vacation time to see Arkansas and meet with students.

He’s been to the United States many times before. He spent his 10-day vacation sightseeing. He visited the Clinton Presidential Library, Little Rock Central High School, Hot Springs, Memphis, Branson and Mississippi.

He said he enjoyed seeing nature, the culture and learning about history.

During his time at Dupree Elementary, he showed students a PowerPoint presentation about Germany. Parents were invited to meet Geiss during a reception on Friday.

While visiting Dupree Elementary, Geiss said he has gained insight on how American children learn, grow and use computers. He was comparing the culture and education between Germany and America.

He said it was emotional and the students were full of kindness.

“They were really excited that I was going to visit. I feel at home. There is no reason I don’t feel welcome. The kids are hugging me all the time. They are open minded to me having no fear of a foreigner,” Geiss said.

“I have never seen an open- space school. Young people can learn from each other. I think it is a quite good education,” Geiss said.

He said the students have social interaction with each other and are not closed off into a traditional, walled classroom.

“It is a big family,” Geiss said about Dupree Elementary.

Geiss said the pen-pal letters were a chance for him to learn something new and for someone to learn something about him.

Mendy Lemoine’s third- grade class studied about Germany. In their letters, they had many questions to ask, such as what is it like to live in Germany.

Principal Walker said Geiss’ visit related to the school’s school-year theme of “All the Places You’ll Go.”

She said it was a great way show how the Internet and email connects people globally.

Walker said, “It has been enlightening for my students, my staff and my parents, because they have been able to take part in this experience.

“We’re more knowledgeable about Germany. We’re connected and Lt. Col. Geiss too is part of our Dupree family,” Walker said.