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USU Professor Visits the King of Norway

Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013

Sylvia Munsen
USU Professor Sylvia Munsen, wearing the traditional Hardanger bunad folk costume, with a guard at the palace of H.M. Harald V, King of Norway.

Sylvia Munsen had a private audience with H.M. Harald V, King of Norway, in November, after receiving the Medal of St. Olav earlier this year. She is a professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership, and the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Arts Education in Utah State University’s Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. 


The medal is one of the highest recognitions in Norway that can be given a foreigner. Munsen was awarded it for promoting Norway through her work in education and with children’s choirs.


They spoke mostly about the student teaching program she launched 13 years ago, when she was at Iowa State. The program has expanded in the last two years to include students from Utah State University.


Student teachers travel to Norway for seven weeks each semester and teach in English both in their subject areas and also in English classes, sometimes leading conversations in small groups. 


In Norway, English is a core subject, Munsen said. By the time students finish fifth grade, they’re fairly advanced. Those who were taught by American student teachers in the program scored especially well in national tests.  


In 2010, 8th grade students in Rosendal scored 8th best in the country for their skills in English – a remarkable accomplishment for a community of only 1,000 people. 


“It’s not only improved the English of the students, it’s improved the English of the teachers,” she said. “Everybody in the teachers’ lounge now speaks in English.”


The United States has many families descended from Norwegian emigrants, Munsen said. She comes from that tradition herself, and she learned a lot about the old country as she grew up in the Midwest.


Working in modern-day Norway—and meeting its king—has given her a feel for the contemporary country and the things American educators can learn from their colleagues in education there. (For example, Norway scores higher than the United States in math and science.)


“The king said that when he’s talking to people in the (American) Midwest it’s always about the old country,” she said. It was nice for them both to talk about Norway as it is now. 


Related Links:


Professor goes to Norway to visit the King

Sylvia Munsen receives highest honors from Norway


Writer:  JoLynne Lyon, 435-797-1463

Contact: Sylvia Munsen, sylvia.munsen@usu.edu

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