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JUNE 2005

Outstanding Teacher and Principal of the Year Win Free Trips to Austria

Outstanding Teacher of the Year Margaret Breen of Seward Park High School, New York and Jeanette Sosa, Principal of PS 151 Brooklyn won free trips to Austria sponsored by Austrian Airlines at the 2004 Education Update Outstanding Teacher ceremony. Education Update interviewed them about their experiences.

Education Update (EU): How did you feel about winning?
Principal Jeanette Sosa (JS): I was so excited about it; I couldn’t believe it—I never won anything so elaborate.

EU: Have you been to Europe before?
JS: I had been to Spain and Paris. This was my first time in Vienna.

EU: What were your impressions of the country?
JS: It was very clean. Things seemed very organized. One of the first things I noticed was that on the subway there were no ticket agents—you didn’t have to buy the tickets from a ticket booth. Everything was computerized; people were just going in and out.

EU: Was there anything else about the functioning of the country that impressed you?
JS: People are low-key and quiet. It also seemed like it was a melting pot. People from so many different countries live in Vienna and I was surprised to see that. I went with my daughter, a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at Binghamton University and she was impressed with the fact that there are so many different kinds of people from so many different countries. We spoke to someone while we exchanged our monies, and she compared living in US to living in Vienna. She said that clothing is extremely high priced, but in her country, they get paid for all medical services. In the US you have to pay a lot for the dentist, but in Vienna the government pays for that. So we were impressed with some of her responses with reference to cost of living and the way that they live.

EU: What sites did you visit?
JS: We visited the Castle where Maria Teresa lived. We also walked through the maze, the gardens. We went to the Butterfly House—I loved that. It was like a nature setting, very tropical. We also went to the world’s oldest zoo and my daughter was impressed with how close you can get to the animals at that zoo. We also went to a church, one of the most famous churches in Vienna, with a tall steeple, which very beautiful, and elaborate. We also went dancing and were surprised to see that Vienna has a lot of Salsa clubs. We went to one where there was meringue, salsa and bachata dancing, everything you see in New York City. People sung Spanish songs and we had a lot of fun with that. The hotel we stayed out was one of the most modern hotels there so we were very comfortable. We traveled by metro everywhere and we felt comfortable doing so.

EU: Were there things you learned on trip that you could apply to the educational experience?
JS: At the zoo we met a junior high school class and I asked the teacher how the students are. She said that they are very well behaved. They are children just like here—taking class trips and working on reading and math.

EU: What were the best things about the trip?
JS: We were able to relax and explore and venture off to new domain, a new country. The city streets were so beautiful. I would say ninety nine percent of the housing there is beautiful, with cement and wooden blocks as opposed to shingles. I was impressed with the pharmacy in Vienna. At one point I had a bad allergy and the pharmacist was able to give me something without a prescription. I wasn’t able to read the box, but they were able to explain exactly how to use it and my allergy subsided.

EU: Do you feel the trip changed your perspective on life?
JS: Oh yes, it enriched my life as well as my daughter’s.

Margaret Breen:

Education Update(EU): What was your response to winning the raffle?
Margaret Breen (MB): It was a wonderful surprise. It was a very nice event, and then it ended with the raffle and I was thoroughly surprised.

EU: Had you been to Vienna before?
MB: I had been to Austria, but this was first time in Vienna

EU: What was impressive in Vienna?
MB: It’s a wonderful city. The music and musical background added to the culture of Vienna. The architecture was very impressive, and the people were very sophisticated in general.

EU: Was there anything you could apply from the trip to the classroom experience?
MB: I do use music in the classroom and I do try to integrate classical music, so I probably had a deeper appreciation for classical music that I might apply to the classroom.

EU: Which composers where impressive?
MB: Mozart as well as Schubert.

EU: What was the best thing about the trip?
MB: I went for nine days, so the length was nice. It was during the February break, and I did other things—I went to Salzburg, Budapest and Prague.

EU: Was there anything that stood out in those areas?
MB: In those areas, coming from a Communist Bloc country, they were not as progressive as Vienna, certainly not as wealthy as Vienna, but the architecture and the people were very nice. The architecture in Prague certainly was very impressive.

EU: Would you want to return to Vienna?
MB: Sure, I would go back.

EU: Is there something you can apply from the trip to the general education setting?
MB: Just the experience of seeing how different people experience different things and live, just add to the broadness of my character and the tolerance that I bring to my position. #



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