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Ann Mennonno
Headline: A culture of learning

Catching Up With: Ann Mennonno

The walls and blackboards in Ann's classroom in the IPS Center for Inquiry (CFI) are covered with the usual papers, posters, instructions and drawings that fill secondand third-grade classrooms across the country.

But in her desk are other drawings, by students from an orphanage school in Honduras called Flor Azul (Spanish for "Blue Flower"), far from downtown Indianapolis. The drawings, by boys she has befriended in two short trips to rural Honduras as part of the Heart in Education Teacher Outreach (HETO) program, are near and dear to the former IUPUI student (a 1999 graduate from the IU School of Education at IUPUI).

"When I first got these, I was in tears," she says. "They have so little in their schools, and yet they gave me so much" for her work with Honduran teachers and students in the rural mountains of that Caribbean country.

Mennonno already has made two trips as part of HETO, a project partnering Indianapolis schools with schools in the poor Central American country. This winter, she'll head back to meet with "my other class" and with the teachers she and HETO support.

Her IPS class has gotten involved in the project. "Our kids wrote dual-language books for the kids down there and their teachers to use to learn English," Mennonno says. "Our kids feel like they are teachers, too."

She also brings back stories and memories from her travels that help achieve one of CFI's main goals as the state's only International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program.

"We teach our kids that the world is very small, and one of our goals is to learn social action and responsibility," Mennonno says. Since the IUPUI graduate doesn't speak Spanish — "though I am learning the language" — they work through interpreters while in Honduras. Back home, CFI students regularly use Spanish in the classroom.

"It's the best way to become bilingual," Mennonno says. "Just get immersed in the Spanish language."

Chris Leland, one of Mennonno's former teachers and mentors at the School of Education, isn't surprised her protégé is involved in the venture.

"Ann is always looking for creative ways to teach her students," says Chris Leland of the School of Education, who was one of Mennonno's mentors during the IPS teacher's days at IUPUI. "She makes learning fun and exciting, something kids will want to do their whole lives."

The experience has been transforming for the IPS teacher.

"It was scary the first time, especially working through an interpreter," Mennonno says. "But your life changes when you do this. I absolutely love it!"