By Sam Jack
GODDARD – School district employees Dane and Daniele Baxa represented the Goddard Education Foundation (GEF) in Prague, Czech Republic, last summer. Over the Christmas holiday, a Prague resident, George Vedral, made the reverse trip, spending Christmas in Goddard and learning more about Goddard’s schools.
The visits pave the way for a new GEF program that will send Goddard staff to Prague each summer. They were coordinated by GEF and sponsored in large part by Chris and Jana Shults. Chris is a Goddard alum, while Jana is from the Czech Republic.
Teachers who are chosen for the trips will stay in an apartment the Shultses own in Prague. They will have the opportunity to visit Czech schools and exchange ideas with local teachers, and they will get plenty of time for sightseeing and cultural tourism.
The first two teachers who will go on the trips have been announced: Rochelle Mann, a music teacher at Amelia Earhart Elementary will head to Prague this summer, and Heather Potter, a Spanish and computer teacher at Goddard Middle School, will head there a year later. Mann and Potter were also USD 265’s Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees.
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“When our teachers go over there, there’s going to be so much we can learn from each other,” said Dane Baxa, who is GEF’s executive director. “What’s going to be awesome is that there’s an understanding being built between two unique cultures that, on the surface, might not seem that different, but when you get them into conversation, people are going to be enlightened.”
Vedral is an IT administrator and friend of the Shultses who has agreed to help make sure things go smoothly for Goddard teachers visiting Prague.
“I’ll try to basically make it as easy as possible for them, so they’re not going to be stressed in any way,” Vedral said.
Vedral had never traveled to America before his Christmas visit to Goddard, and he said he enjoyed his time visiting with the Baxas, the Shultses and other Goddard folks.
“The Dwight D. Eisenhower museum was pretty cool. I can tell it’s very special to the town of Abilene,” Vedral said. “I had no idea how big of a man Eisenhower was until I visited that place. I knew of him before, but I had no idea what his background was.”
Vedral also liked seeing the extravagant Christmas light displays around Goddard and Wichita.
Jana Shults observes some Czech Christmas traditions that were familiar to Vedral, but one she skipped was eating carp.
“The emergency room on Christmas Eve is full of people who got the bone from the carp in their throat,” she said. “So we didn’t get carp, but we tried to have a Czech Christmas.”