Renewed exchange partnership benefits students, educators

Superintendent Janet Barresi Special to The Sun The Edmond Sun Wed Jun 22, 2011, 06:33 PM CDT

EDMOND — It’s not every day I have the chance to meet face to face with educators and students nearly 5,000 miles away, but that’s exactly what I did last week.

I held a video conference from Oklahoma City with officials with the Académie d’Amiens to renew Oklahoma’s cultural exchange partnership with the regional education agency in northern France.

Académies are the French equivalents of state departments of education in the United States. The Académie d’Amiens includes three smaller divisions in the region of Picardy.

Our new memorandum of understanding marks the fourth year for the agreement, and I was pleased to continue this important partnership.

In the new knowledge economy, our students must be prepared to engage with the rest of the world. As students prepare to compete in the global marketplace, it’s vital that they engage with and understand different perspectives throughout the world. Educators can talk to students about it, but it has more impact when students experience it directly.

Our partnership with Amiens is an essential part of our efforts to rethink how we deliver education. The partnership builds and expands ties between Oklahoma and French educators and students by including student exchanges, group projects between schools, video conferences and online wiki-based collaboration.

Our renewal of the partnership with Amiens was also a great reminder of the dedicated educators we have working in our state and at the Oklahoma Department of Education. Key to organizing the agreement renewal was Desa Dawson, director of world languages for the state department. Dawson has also been honored in France as a Chevalier (a Knight) of the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) an Order of Chivalry for academics and cultural and educational figures. And earlier this year, Dawson was honored by OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education in the 2011 Celebration of Education awards.

More information about pairing with a school in Amiens is now available on the State Department of Education’s Website ( under World Languages .  Those interested in learning more can contact Dawson at

or by phone at 521-3035.

JANET BARRESI is state superintendent of public instruction for Oklahoma. She may be reached via her website at


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