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Czech Educators Visit Palacios and Van Vleck High Schools

October 10, 2012

    Four educators from the Czech Republic recently got a taste of Texas hospitality while visiting Matagorda County. Secondary teacher Jitka Klusackova from the general high school in Trebic, and professors Karel Katovsky, Petr Mastny, and Jiri Martinec from Brno Technical University visited Palacios and Van Vleck High Schools as part of a bilateral agreement signed in September 2011 between the United States Department of Energy and the Czech Republic. The educator exchange is designed to foster collaboration through the sharing of information and best practices in nuclear education. The visit was hosted by the Nuclear Power Inistitute (NPI)

    The Czech educators met with Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald and Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath to begin their visit, and then were treated to a tour of Van Vleck High School by the senior members of POWER SET and Workforce Industry Training (WIT). While at Palacios High School, the Czech educators participated in the POWER SET induction ceremony and visited several classrooms while touring the campus. "I think it is really wonderful all the opportunities American students have," remarked Klusackova.. "To know something about agriculture, or computers, or cooking even if that is not the field you will work in is very good I think."

    Since the primary focus of the visit was nuclear energy and education programs, the Czech educators also visited with employees and toured the STP nuclear plant. "I was very much interested in the spent fuel storage as that is a problem across the nuclear industry," said Katovsky. The visit to Matagorda County was capped with a tour of the Center for Energy Development given by Rudolph Henry, the Director of Nuclear Power Technology at the Wharton County Junior College Bay City Campus.

    Stephanie Garcia, Palacios High School math teacher, Mollie Huber, Van Vleck High School Counselor, and Valerie Segovia, Director of Outreach and Development for NPI, visited the Czech Republic last March for the first phase of the educator exchange. The group toured the general high school and the technical high school in Trebic, as well as Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, Brno Technical University, Charles University in Prague, and the U.S. Embassy. While in the Czech Republic, they were hosted by the Czech Nuclear Education Network (CENEN).

    As a result of the exchange, the educators will be working on designing and implementing a project that will require the Czech and American high school students to collaborate. Based on an idea by Klusackova, the project will begin with Czech and American students corresponding via email, internet, and Skype.

    Development of the nuclear workforce is the main focus of NPI, a unique statewide partnership led by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station and headquartered at Texas A&M University. POWER SET and WIT are workforce development initiatives sponsored by NPI in the secondary schools. Both organizations encourage students who have an interest in science, math, engineering, or technology to pursue careers in those fields. POWER SET's membership is limited to young women with proven aptitude in math and science while WIT serves both male and female students.

    By Mollie M. Huber, counselor at Van Vleck High School.