Some people say there will always be Paris, says teacher Anuradha Rai of India, but for her, "There will always be Montana."
Rai, who teaches English at a private high school in New Delhi, was one of six foreign teachers who spoke Wednesday to Bozeman High School students in the Interact Club.
While about 30 students noshed on pizza, the teachers - from India, Guatemala and Venezuela -- gave mini-lessons about their countries.
The students successfully answered questions about what India and the United States have in common - both are democracies and former British colonies - and the teachers gave them small purses made of Guatemalan cloth as prizes.
After lunch, the six visiting teachers said they had learned much more than they expected in Montana over the past six weeks.
Perla Santis of Guatemala said she was impressed by how teachers here "make students think. This is very important for me. Where I live, it's different."
They were part of a group of 22 foreign high school teachers from nine countries who worked with Montana State University professors and Bozeman High teachers to improve their English and their teaching skills. Their visit was sponsored by MSU's Office of International Programs and the U.S. State Department, which is seeking to increase foreign teachers' knowledge of the United States.
The teachers said they were interested in Bozeman High's combination English and American history class, where two teachers work together. They also got to meet biology teacher Paul Andersen, who just won the state teacher of the year award for his innovative use of technology.
The visiting teachers also learned a lot from each other. Paola de la Rosa of Guatemala said she liked working with MSU professors and "21 of the best teachers around the world."
"It made me a better teacher," de la Rosa said.
One thing about Bozeman that really impressed the visiting teachers, de la Rosa said, was the way "everybody supports everybody." They saw teachers, students and clubs holding fundraisers for causes like fighting domestic violence and environmental issues. Things like that happen in Guatemala, but not to the same extent, she said.
Abu Irfan, a teacher from Kolkata, India, said when he first came, he felt a bit apprehensive about the behavior of American teenagers, but Bozeman students proved to be well behaved.
In Guatemala, students wear uniforms and have less freedom to eat or drink in class, said teacher Sara Colorado.
"What makes an impression on me is the emphasis on the individual," de la Rosa said. "It goes beyond what (students) wear. Teachers are aware each student is unique and they try to cater to how they learn."
Rai noted that for one deaf student, the school provided a specialist just to help her.
Marcelo Miranda of Argentina said the program had taught him to work better in a team.
"It was a very exhaustive course," Rai said. "I can say I'm not the same person. It has changed me."
She explained that she shared a room with teachers from Ukraine and Senegal, and while they were all different, "we got along famously. There are so many stereotypes. At the end of the day, we're all people."
In addition to studying, the teachers got to visit Yellowstone National Park and Bridger Bowl and go horseback riding. Some will take home souvenirs of Montana-made Martinson's Ranch Chocolates.
The teachers fly back to Washington, D.C. today, where they will meet up with about 40 teachers who spent time in Nebraska and Virginia. They said they were proud that of the 18 teachers who will present lesson plans, 16 are from the Bozeman group.
"We are workaholics," Irfan joked.
Gail Schontzler can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2633.