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by Cris Guenter

Since 1972, more than 60 Irish teachers from St. Patrick’s College of Education, now a part of Dublin City University, have come to CSU, Chico to earn their master’s degrees in a year’s time. More than 140 student teachers from the Department of Education at CSU, Chico have gone overseas to teach in the schools of Dublin and complete their student teaching credentials.

It all began in the summer of 1972, when Professor John Killeen and his wife, Angela, arrived in Chico from Howth, Ireland. He was part of a first-time exchange with the CSU, Chico English department. He traded homes and teaching responsibilities with Professor Edgar Glenn (now a professor emeritus). “My official salary for the year was one dollar!” says Killeen (in photo above at St. Patrick's College with Cris Guenter).

During that time, Killeen met with Robert Fredenburg, associate vice president for academic affairs at the time. Fredenburg told Killeen about his ambition to have an exchange of students between the two colleges. When Killeen returned to Dublin later that year, he secured permission from the president of St. Patrick’s College and from the Irish Government Department of Education for the exchange.

Over the three decades, Killeen has maintained his supervision of the programs. Among the many Chico families that have offered support, the Irish alums repeatedly noted the Lindseys, Overholts, Richmonds, Gladdens, Scotts, Marshalls, and Diamonds.

This spring several former Irish graduate students now teaching all over Ireland will join CSU, Chico Honors students in online discussions about Ireland. Following are the reminiscences of some of the students who have participated in the Ireland Exchange.

Destination Chico

For Finbarr “Barry” Sloan, who came to Chico in 1979, the exchange was a chance to study in a different country, interact with a more diverse group of students, and take a course of study that was decidedly less prescribed than his program at St. Patrick’s.

“School was interesting for the Irish students as we had considerable leeway to generate for ourselves a course of study,” says Sloan. “For me, the intellectual environment was quite interesting. But the best part was the time that faculty was willing to give the interested and self-motivated student.”

Sloan says they were treated as though they were part of the faculty, but the CSU, Chico faculty also provided much guidance and steered them in unanticipated directions. “In fact, they helped frame, in a hands-off manner, the course of study and the intellectual course of my career,” notes Sloan. “Much of this was done outside the classroom and will never be seen on an academic transcript.”

Although Sloan spent only nine months in Chico, he says it was a major turning point in his intellectual life, personal life, and career. “At Chico I was able to take a lot of statistics courses (pure and applied) and to begin to combine my interests in mathematics, mathematics education, schooling, sociology, and behavioral methodology,” he says. His only regret is finishing the course of study as quickly as possible—and missing out on more of the Chico experience. Sloan returned to Ireland to teach first grade in St. Patrick’s laboratory school, then came back to the United States to attend graduate school at the University of Chicago and become vice principal of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and eventually a mathematics education professor at the University of Illinois.

Eamonn Kelly stayed in Chico longer than the usual two semesters. “I came on the exchange program to Chico for further education, in order to experience California, and because John Killeen, then at the English Department at St. Patrick’s College, assured me that I would meet the most beautiful women in the world,” recalls Kelly. “So I did, and married one, Rebecca Vaughan. I spent five years completing my one-year exchange program. This was [coordinator of academic publications] Jim Jessee’s fault. He told me to ‘pick up the catalog and get an education!’ ”

Kelly graduated with three master’s degrees: one in psychology, one in education, and a special major in psychotherapy and rhetoric. He then took a doctorate at Stanford (1984­88) and worked 12 years at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is now coordinator of Rutgers’ instructional technology program and serves as a full professor in the Graduate School of Education.

While at CSU, Chico, Kelly and Sloan became friends, and now live only eight miles apart in Virginia. In fact, Sloan now fills the position of program officer at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, a post Kelly held for three years before moving on to work at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

A fresh perspective

Rhona Larney and Aisling Leavy came to Chico from St. Patrick’s in 1996. “For me, the most memorable and insightful part of the program was the ‘Independent Study’ component with Dr. Guenter, which involved a series of visits and presentations to elementary (K­12) schools all over Northern California,” says Larney. “I still draw on this experience in my ongoing work with schools today. I will always look back on my experience in Chico as life-changing. It gave me a fresh perspective on educational issues in general, and on multicultural issues in particular.”

Since leaving Chico, Larney spent two years teaching at St. Patrick’s laboratory school in Dublin. She then returned to college to complete an advanced degree in educational psychology at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. She is now an educational psychologist in West Dunbartonshire Local Education Authority, just outside Glasgow, Scotland.

For Leavy, now a mathematics education professor at the University of Limerick, the exchange program provided the opportunity to study specific areas in which she was interested. “Chico State, more than any other experience, has served to enrich both my personal and academic life,” she notes. “I met wonderful faculty members in the education (Dr. Cris Guenter, Dr. Jim Overholt) and psychology departments (Dr. Joe Scott) who did all the groundwork in getting me accepted to Arizona State University to carry out my doctoral studies. On a personal level, I met my partner/husband at Chico State.”

Into the future

This academic year, Catriona Nolan and Niamh Kelly, graduate students from St. Patrick’s College, are at CSU, Chico completing their master’s of arts degrees in education. CSU, Chico students Anna Lometti and Katie Bozzo are completing their student teaching experiences in Howth and Port Marnock, Ireland, respectively.

CSU, Chico student teacher Kellie Edwards completed her requirements for her teaching credential and returned from the Ireland Exchange in December 2001. She says that teaching in a two-teacher school was an amazing experience in Irish culture.

“They still do a lot of work out of the book and less hands-on/creative learning,” notes Edwards. “The majority of the schools in Ireland are Catholic, where the students wear uniforms and are often separated into boys’ and girls’ schools. I taught at a Church of Ireland (Protestant) school where uniforms are not worn and the classrooms are coed.”

Edwards says her teaching experience in Ireland taught her a lot about what she wants and doesn’t want in her own classroom. “The multigrade teaching taught me how to be very flexible and ready to make adjustments in my lessons,” she says. “The lack of resource materials in Ireland helped me to become more creative in substituting things needed for a lesson with what I had or what I could find.”

Students currently accepted into the multiple or single subject credential programs in the Department of Education can apply for the Ireland Exchange. Further information can be found online at www.csuchico.edu/educ/cguenter/iep.html. St. Patrick’s College can be found at www.spd.dcu.ie.

About the author

Cris Guenter, professor of arts education/ curriculum and instruction, was named CSU, Chico Outstanding Teacher for 1999­2000 and 2001 Outstanding Visual Arts Educator for California. Guenter has been the coordinator of the Ireland Exchange Program since 1991.

Other CSU, Chico Irish Alums

Marguerite Clark (1990–1991) went on to earn her doctorate in testing and evaluation and now works at Boston College.

Therese Gamble and Mairead Power (1992–1993) are both teachers in Dublin—Gamble at Stanhope Street National School and Power at North Dublin National Project School. In fall 2000, they completed a week-long, 100 km trek across the Sahara Desert to raise more than $4,500 for the homeless people in Dublin.

Deirdre Foy (1993–1994) went on to teach in Irish primary and then moved to the United Arab Emirates to teach school there through fall 2001. Spring 2002 will find her backpacking through Australia.

Maura O'Brien (1993–1994) went on to teach in Irish primary schools and earn a second master’s degree in Irish literature. She will be moving to Spain in 2002 to teach English courses.

Edel Reynolds (1998–1999) taught for two years in Scoil Mhuire, Girls National before heading to Calcutta to work with the Missionaries Charity, Mother Theresa's order. She says her interest in this sort of work stems from her involvement with the people and programs at the CSU, Chico Newman Center.


  Chico Statements is published by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications twice a year for alums, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of California State University, Chico.

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