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Korean teacher returns to West Highlands Elementary after six years

AMHERST, N.S. – Kate Son, a teacher from South Korea, was a Primary class teaching assistant at the old West Highlands Elementary School in 2013.

It’s an experience she cherishes.

“I enjoyed it there, absolutely,” said Son, now 27.

Son took a tour of the new West Highlands school Jan. 16, along with the teacher she assisted six years ago, Dale MacDougall.

After touring the new school, Son said, “this school looks good, but I like the old school because all my memories are there.”

Those memories were formed by the Primary students she taught, now in Grade 6.

“They were good. I miss them. I’m very excited to see them” said Son, before she and MacDougall stepped onto the gymnasium stage to meet them for the first time in six years.

“Yes, they look the same, only taller,” said Son.

MacDougall agrees, saying most look the same, but there are a few that look quite different.

During the visit, they talked about memories they shared.

MacDougall says Son would listen to the children read, she’d do art activities with them and talk about the Korean culture.

Gavin Leggett remembers Son comforting him when he was hurt.

“I fell outside and hurt my side; she helped me,” said Leggett.

Mary McKinnon remembers when they all went to the zoo together, and Tristan O’Blenis remembers her crying when she left on the last day of school.

They also remember gifts they received from her like a fan, some saying they still have the fan, and a bag with coins in it called a Lucky Bag.

Son says education is much different in Canada than it is in Korea.

“Canadian education is more free. Students are more free to speak and the teacher gives the students a lot of opportunity to participate in activities,” said Son. “Here they focus on the students more, where in Korea they focus more on exams and test scores.”

Son is staying at MacDougall’s in Amherst until the end of January.

“I retired at the end of 2013 and she came to my retirement and went back to Korea,” said MacDougall, who taught for 33 years before retiring.

From February to May, Son is taking English classes at the East Coast Language College in Halifax before going back to South Korea.

“She’s teaching English in Primary to Grade 3 in Korea, but she’s going to open her own private English school where the kids will be tutored in English after school,” said MacDougall.

At the end of the visit, Son presented the Grade 6 students with a gift, giving them each a package of Korean tattoos they can stick to their skin.

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