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  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: International Education


    Kelsey Trotnic traveled to Australia on a spark plug. 

    Well, at least money from the sale of lots of spark plugs financed the 2013 Pittsburg State University graduate’s student-teaching experience in the land of kangaroos and koalas.

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  • Kelsey Trotnic traveled to Australia on a spark plug.

    Well, at least money from the sale of lots of spark plugs financed the 2013 Pittsburg State University graduate’s student-teaching experience in the land of kangaroos and koalas.

    “I knew about the trip in March of 2012 and had until September or October to decide,” said Trotnic, Parsons, who earned a degree in elementary education. “The cost would be $10,000 to $12,000, but the more people who go, the cheaper the trip is.”

    She decided to start fundraising in April of 2012 and see how much she could accumulate by fall. Showing a definite entrepreneurial streak, Trotnic gave $800 of the money she already had to her father, Rick Trotnic, who runs Trotnic Recycling in Parsons, and asked him to invest it for her.

    “My dad has been collecting antiques since he was 9,” Trotnic said. “He bought an old grain truck and I sold the truck for $1,200.”

    She reinvested her earnings in some old engines, but soon found that her niche was spark plugs that her father purchased on her behalf.

    “I’d run the sale for seven days on eBay from my dorm room,” Trotnic said. “Each night I’d list and by the end of the week they’d all be sold. I’d go home to Parsons on the weekend and we’d package them.”

    Her fiancé, Nate Roy, technology and engineering education major from Webb City, Mo., would come along to help.

    “My father had the knowledge, I have computer skills, my fiancé helped and on Mondays my mother would take the packaged spark plugs to the post office and ship them for me,” Trotnic said. “It was a real little family business.”

    She said that she sold spark plugs around the world, including many to Australia.

    “These people didn’t even know me, but they were exciting that I was coming to their country,” Trotnic said.

    She was in Australia from March 31 to May 4, 2013.

    “I just got back,” Trotnic said. “We’re transitioning into summer here, but they’re transitioning into their winter. It was getting down to 70 and they were starting to feel a little chilly. It doesn’t really get cold there, and the Australians were shocked when I told them we got temperatures in the teens and even below zero. There is no snow in Australia.”

    Page 2 of 3 - Her first week was spent in activities such as white water rafting and cultural experiences, and the second week was an orientation for the three weeks she spent with a teacher in a Year 4 classroom.

    Trotnic, who student-taught in Webb City, Mo., before she went to Australia, noted many differences in the educational systems of the United States and Australia.

    “In Australia, students go to school for 10 weeks, then have two weeks of vacation for four terms, then a break from the end of December through mid-January,” she said. “They were in their second 10-week period of school when I got there, but the students in the United States that I’d student-taught were finishing up third grade. It seemed to me that the Australian students were just a little bit behind.”

    Trotnic added that there were no textbooks in Australia.

    “This was shocking to me,” she said. “Teachers used videos and PowerPoint presentations.
    Students do a lot of writing, more than in the United States. They seem to spend more time in writing than in knowledge testing.”

    There was far less technology usage at her school.

    “The teachers have laptops, and they have two computers in the classroom, but I never saw a student use them,” Trotnic said.

    Another big difference was the lack of remedial services for students who fall behind.

    “They hope that students will catch up in coming years, but it can take as long as three years for a student to get special services,” Trotnic said. “We do a good job here of helping students catch up. We can give students vision and hearing screenings at schools here, but in Australia you have to have a doctor’s prescription for the students can be tested.”

    On the campus where she student-taught, the school was not a big building with classrooms, but a collection of pods.

    “The pods kind of look like a trailer with four classrooms inside,” Trotnic said. “They’re very careful about the sun and students have to wear hats on the playground. There was no cafeteria and students ate outside under the covered walkways.”

    Page 3 of 3 - Eating is something the students do a lot.

    “They have a fruit break at 10 a.m., a small lunch at 11:15 a.m. and then eat the rest of their lunch at 1:15 p.m.,” Trotnic said.

    She very much enjoyed visiting Australia and said she would recommend the experience to anyone wishing to learn more about education in that country.

    “You would really need to be in a program like this, because otherwise you would not get into a classroom with students,” Trotnic said.

    She admits, though, to really missing home, her family and, of course, her fiancé. They are going to be married on June 1 and Trotnic is now busy with wedding preparations.

    In the fall she will teach fifth grade social studies and communication arts at Carl Junction, Mo.

    “I’d like to put together a unit on Australia for my students, and I’ve brought back a lot of materials for it,” Trotnic said.

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