SCHOOL PATROL: Bradley Central welcomes Ugandan educator - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

SCHOOL PATROL: Bradley Central welcomes Ugandan educator

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CLEVELAND, BRADLEY COUNTY (WRCB)-   Around the Bradley Central High School campus, the new teacher in town is known as "Mr. Walter," always with a welcoming smile and a gentle nature.  Otim Walter Knox is principal of the Paboss Secondary School in Northern Uganda.  He's enjoying his new students, almost as much as they enjoy him.

Sophomore Lindsey Armstrong said, "He taught us how to dance,  he loves to share his joy, and he's taught us to be thankful for what we have."  Katrina Hughes, also a sophomore said, "He is always smiling.  We have students here who walk around like they're sad, and he lets them know how fortunate they are to be here."

Knox is accustomed to classrooms three times the size of a typical American classroom, with 75 students at a time.  In Uganda, he says, students stay in the same room all day, with teachers coming and going. And in a large class, discipline is a top priority.

"The teachers tend to force students to obey and to remain focused on their studies," Knox said.  "Without discipline it is difficult to administer in a room with so many students."

While in Bradley County, Knox is being hosted by Bradley Central teacher Bonnie Cretton and her husband Chris, a teacher at Ocoee Middle.  "They are so good to me," Knox said.  "They have made me feel welcome, and I have been embraced by the entire community.  Children are the same everywhere.  Some face more challenges than others.  Here in America, students have good relationships with their teachers, and there is great involvement from parents.  These are things I want to take back with me."

The Crettons visited Uganda last year as part of the Invisible Children program.  Just as Knox is learning something from his American experience, they brought back many lessons for Bradley County students, some of whom have no idea how lucky they are.

Bonnie Cretton said, "I try to be patient when they complain about having to be in school, and let them know that an education will empower them and change their lives."  Of "Mr. Walter," she said, "I can tell them some of the difficulties children face in Uganda, but he lives it first-hand every day.  These students really listen to him, and appreciate his wealth of knowledge."

Both sides agree that Ugandan teens and American teens have many similarities.  Ms. Cretton says the exchange of culture and ideas can only bring their worlds even closer.

Senior Matt Cook said, "This is far from over, even for those of us who are graduating.  We can carry this over into college, and our communities.  Those people need our help, and need to know that we care."

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