Monday, February 17, 2014


When you walk into Fritz Elsen’s room at Craig High School you immediately sense something different and exciting. Dozens of flags, posters and stunning artifacts - all created by his students - greet you. You may not be sure what Fritz teachers, but you know it has an international emphasis.

Fritz teaches Honors Global Studies, a program he developed. On Wednesday of last week, he opened up his classroom to students from other classes and programs throughout our district to take a virtual trip to Jordan. Thanks to the technology efforts of Stacci Barganz, Fritz’ classroom was linked up to Jordon where Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple from were reporting live from the Za’Atari Syrian refugee camp on the conditions at the camp and the status of the 130,000 Syrian refugees who have lost everything except their lives and the clothes on their backs after fleeing the terror and death in their homeland.

Due to a critical leadership meeting that morning, I was unable to attend Fritz’ trip to Jordan, but I was provided details of the event. I started to shiver with excitement when I heard about it. This is exactly what our technology efforts, led by Dr. Bob Smiley, are all about. This is exactly what our Janesville International Education Program is all about. There is an exciting and challenging world of learning opportunities outside the physical borders of the School District of Janesville. Fritz and Stacci provided students in our district that opportunity last week.

Fritz opened his classroom to all. Attending Wednesday’s “trip” were Gabby Hanson-Parker and Pedro Arvizo from the district’s Washington Seminar program. Gabby and Pedro are studying the Syria conflict and its effect on the Middle East in Joe VanRooy’s AP Government class at Parker.

Also attending was Sam Plutchak, a member of Craig’s Amnesty International Club. Sam was one of two students in Fritz’ classroom to ask a question and get an answer directly from the two representatives. Sam wanted to know how we can help the refugees. Zach suggested that we can all help by logging on to  and explore ways to learn about the plight of refugees around the world and ways to help them.

Yes, the link to Jordan was a two-way path – students in Fritz’ classroom could see and hear the two men in Jordan, and from Jordan they could see and hear the students at Craig.

Fritz and Stacci put a new face on global studies. They took our district’s students outside the classroom walls at Craig and put them on an international stage. Our students had an opportunity to learn first-hand and live from experts at the scene.

I’m getting shivers of excitement all over again just talking about it and thinking of future possibilities.

My deepest appreciation goes out to Fritz, Stacci and all the staff and students who make the School District of Janesville a place where we serve our community by educating every student.

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