North Salt Lake • You Hyun Shin watched throngs of children hang off a jungle gym at Foxboro Elementary School on Wednesday with an amused expression.
The senior at Korea University in Seoul had her share of first-day jitters when she stepped into a fourth-grade classroom to spend a month as a teaching assistant. She'll share lessons about her culture and the differences between Korean and American schools with 29 students.
She started her new teaching role by helping students in Merilee Herrick's classroom fill out worksheets about themselves as year-round school got under way in Davis School District.
But Shin was thrown for a loop momentarily when kids filed out of school and bolted for the playground during a morning recess.
"We don't have recess time [in Korea]. I'm a little bit surprised," she said, as her students bounced basketballs on a court and took turns riding a merry-go-round. "It's really cool."
Twenty-eight students from top universities in Korea are acting as teacher assistants at the district's schools. In addition to Foxboro, which started year-round school for the first time Wednesday to help cope with booming enrollment, four other Davis County elementary schools began year-round classes on Wednesday with Korean assistants: Bluffridge, Lincoln, Antelope and Syracuse.
Starting the year with teachers from South Korea will offer students an international perspective, said Foxboro Principal Kevin Prusse.
"It gives them another idea of what people are like around the world. It gives them a sense of diversity and what another culture looks like," said Prusse.
He added that Korean instructors also benefit from their classroom time. The school's reading coach will instruct the Korean assistants in the best practices for teaching in the American school setting, said Prusse.
The Korean teachers will stay with host families in Davis County during their teaching stints, which will give them further exposure to American culture, said Prusse.
For teaching assistants like Shin and her colleague, Won Seok Kim, who is also a senior at Korea University, time in an American classroom is an eye-opener.
Kim, who is preparing to be a high school teacher, had never taught elementary students. He marveled at Foxboro's large gymnasium and numerous classrooms a change from the smaller Korean schools he is accustomed to, he said.
"It is very interesting. Everything is new for me," Kim said.
Elsewhere in the Salt Lake Valley, other schools with a year-round schedule observed the first day of classes on Wednesday. Most schools with traditional calendar years start the third or fourth week of August.
Used as a tool to address crowding in elementaries, the year-round format is also offered at 19 schools in the Jordan School District.
On a year-round schedule, up to 25 percent more pupils can fit in a school building, avoiding or delaying the need to build a new school. Students are divided into four tracks and at any given time, one track is out of session. The cost to educate each student remains the same.
Year-round school at Foxboro will serve the school's swelling school population, which has grown to about 1,000 students in a school built for 700, Prusse said.
The school is 4 years old and opened with empty classrooms and room to spare, Prusse said. This year, school started with six portable classrooms to accommodate its growth, in addition to using the year-round school format. Full classrooms at Foxboro are one of many reasons the Korean teachers are a welcome addition to the beginning of the school year, said Herrick, a fourth-grade teacher.
"I'm so excited for her to do the culture lessons," said Herrick of her teaching assistant, Shin. "It's great to have them here."
School year starts
Granite • Aug. 27
Alpine • Aug. 21
Davis • Sept. 4
Jordan • Aug. 28
Canyons • Aug. 27
Salt Lake City • Aug. 22