Columbus teacher brings experience in Russia to classroom

September 7, 2019 10:02:57 PM



This year Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science world languages teacher Margaret Mary Henry is presenting lessons she created during a professional development program this summer in St. Petersburg, Russia.


Henry, of Columbus, was one of 15 teachers chosen from around the country to study at Gerzen Pedagogical University. Funded by the U.S. and Russian governments and administered by the American Councils on Education, the month-long program in July included advanced courses in Russian language, culture and pedagogy, a stay with a host family and cultural excursions. Settings for Henry's new lessons range from memorials to the World War II blockade of the city, to a Petersburg eatery called Teremok, to the Yusupov Palace, where Rasputin was murdered.


A former journalist who worked in Moscow from 1992-1999, Henry re-launched Russian, which had been taught briefly at MSMS, in fall 2012. She was chosen to participate in Fulbright fellowship programs in Russia in summer 2014 at Moscow State University, summer 2016 at Gerzen University and summer 2018 at Irkutsk State University in Siberia. Four of her students have won federal high-school scholarships to study Russian in the former Soviet Union (Mary Frances Holland, Class of 2015; Ayres McCammon, Class of 2015; Hillary Gerber, Class of 2017; and Sidney Matrisciano, Class of 2018). Three have chosen Russian as a college major, and at least eight as a minor. Two former MSMS Russian students received federal Critical Language Scholarships to study in Russia in college (Mary Frances Holland and Kimya Jamasbi, Class of 2015), and at least three others have studied in the former USSR on study abroad programs through their universities.



Another graduate of the MSMS Russian program, Deandrea Hawkins of Clarksdale (Class of 2015), is headed to the city of Tomsk in Siberia as a recipient of a year-long Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award. Hawkins, who graduated in May from Millsaps College and plans to become a gastroenterologist, will be teaching English to Russian medical students while himself continuing to study Russian.


MSMS is the only high school in Mississippi that offers Russian. This year 22 MSMS students are studying the Slavic language, which is deemed by the federal government to be critical to U.S. political and economic interests. Russian is spoken by more than one hundred million Russians, but it is also a second language in territory stretching from the Baltics to the Caucasus to Central Asia.