1 “Mr. Grosskopf is going to Hungary!”
At least that’s the way it was reported in the halls of Seattle’s Roosevelt High School this spring as word spread of the Language Arts teacher’s upcoming year abroad.
An article in the school paper informed me that David Grosskopf, who has taught at the school for 13 years, would be taking part in a Fulbright teacher exchange for the coming school year. After the intensity of school-end activities (graduation, grading and training) died down, I spoke to him about his upcoming adventure.
“I was really interested in doing something different,” he says. “I really wanted…to give myself some space and my family an adventure.”
This particular year seemed the most favorable, because his and wife Stephanie’s three daughters “are scattered through elementary school,” with the oldest heading into 6th grade. Also, as co-chair of his department in the 2008-2009 school year, David worked hard on the Seattle School District curriculum changes that will be implemented this coming school year and he “wanted to get a break from that,” too.
In mid-August, David’s Hungarian exchange teacher will arrive from Barcs, Hungary with his family. The Grosskopfs will help them for a couple of days before traveling to that town of about 12,000 in the southwest part of the Eastern European country.
Paving the way for his exchange teacher’s arrival, and ensuring to the satisfaction of the Fulbright program that he would be well taken care of, were the most difficult parts of the Fulbright application process, David says.
“They really want you to make sure that the person who’s coming is supported well,” he says.
In addition to the support of Roosevelt staff, the Hungarian family will have David’s parents, who live locally, to help them get settled.
“The Roosevelt administration has been so supportive,” he says.
The reverse is true, too. The Grosskopfs leave confident that they will be warmly received in Barcs. “It’s been so great the way they’ve extended themselves,” David says of his host’s family and friends. The families will live in each others’ houses and the Grosskopf girls, Sophie, Amelia and Maisie, will attend a small school with only 26 students and one teacher.
The Hungarian teacher, in case you’re wondering, speaks excellent English and holds a degree in American and British history and literature and will even teach David’s Shakespeare class.
David will teach English as a second language at the Draba River School. The school, with about 650 students, has three specialty programs in forestry, drama and water management, in addition to regular academics.
The Barcs high school has less than half the number of students at Roosevelt, which also happens to be David’s alma mater. He graduated from there in 1989 and was involved in the creative writing group and wrestled for one year, “until I broke someone’s nose.”
Growing up in Congregation Beth Shalom, David attended Seattle Hebrew Academy, was active in United Synagogue Youth and BBYO, and attended “Hebrew High.”
The avid bike rider told me that in the week after school got out, he had ridden two hours each way for five days to attend a teacher training workshop. He’s done most of the local long distance rides, like the Chilly Hilly and Seattle to Portland. When he’s not riding and teaching, he likes to play with his kids. He and Stephanie are trying to learn a bit of Hungarian before leaving.
“We’re all so excited,” he says of his upcoming year abroad. “We’re also excited trying to make a home for this incoming family.”
A U.S. government program for international educational exchange, the Fulbright program was proposed in 1945 by Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Through grants for a variety of educational activities, primarily university lecturing, advanced research, graduate study and teaching in elementary and secondary schools, it promotes understanding between U.S. citizens and people of other countries. More information is at www.fulbrightteacherexchange.org.
2 As if he can hardly believe it himself, our local blues correspondent, Steve Sarkowsky, reminds us that his Highway 99 Blues Club is still alive and kicking’ after six years. The club was voted best blues club in the state at a recent annual meeting of the Washington Blues Society, and also received an award for “keeping the blues alive.” Steve and three other drummers were nominated for best blues drummer (“I lost that one…which was okay,” he says), and his band — The Robbie Laws Bigger Blues Band — received a Best Blues Act award. The band played at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival recently and is featured at the club about twice a month (www.highwayninetynine.com).