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Chief of Staff
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


Switzerland Sends Southwest Florida 60 Teachers to Study at FGCU

FORT MYERS, FL – They want to know about American culture. They want to hone their English and technology skills. But most of all, they just want to learn how to be better teachers – and they are coming to Florida Gulf Coast University to do it. Beginning Monday, July 16 for four weeks, 60 teachers and a handful of dignitaries from the canton of Zürich, Switzerland, will be attending the second annual Swiss Teachers Summer Institute at FGCU. On Tuesday, July 17 members of the media are invited to meet and mingle with the teachers from noon to 2 p.m. during a University welcoming lunch buffet and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. during a community welcome reception.

“The Swiss workforce must be ready to compete in a world market and they are willing to put money into making their teachers outstanding,” explained Dr. Victoria Dimidjian, FGCU professor of Early Childhood and Counselor Education and an organizer of the Institute. The Institute is a collaborative effort between FGCU and Zürich’s Ministry of Education, but it is the Spenderverein Foundation that helps defray much of the cost.

The FGCU Swiss Teachers Summer Institute is a custom-designed, on-campus experience. The teachers engage in intense study to improve their teaching and curricula, understanding of economic and environmental issues, English language skills, and knowledge of technology as a learning tool, as well as participate in quality team building and problem-solving activities. They stay in FGCU’s residence halls.

The demanding schedule includes multiple classes, workshops and seminars on the FGCU campus, field trips to local schools, planned interviews and appearances on local television and radio stations, interaction with many people in the community during receptions and meetings, visits to local museums, attractions, shops and restaurants, free time for travel and exploration, and even a fashion show provided by local merchants.

“They are very interested in learning about the United States and our culture,” Dimidjian said. “Last year, they went to Wal-Mart until three in the morning because they just couldn’t believe that Americans shop 24 hours a day.”

Yet, the traveling teachers see it as much more than just a trip to America. They believe they can bring much to Southwest Florida.

“It’s not all one-way. They have a lot to offer because they are very sophisticated people,” said Dr. Larry Byrnes, FGCU Dean of the College of Education. “There are a lot of logical spin-offs that can not only benefit the University, but the school districts. This has become a flagship program for the University and can be a real niche for the College of Education.”

Dimidjian said, “It is something that can be good for our region. I think there are things we share in common. Our tie with Zürich can just grow and expand.” She said Switzerland has a program that requires its teachers to go out of the country every three years and teach a three-week course. She added, “They have an 11-month school calendar so they are giving up their summer vacation to do this.”

Byrnes said during last year’s Institute, FGCU hosted 30 teachers from Switzerland. This year, FGCU offered 60 spots. Eighty-nine teachers applied. “This is a real testimony to our institution,” Byrnes said about FGCU being able to accommodate the double number of participants. “Most universities can’t move that quickly. They can’t be that nimble.” For this year’s Institute, FGCU has coordinated 10 education graduate students – some of whom are local school teachers – to serve as facilitators for the Institute. It also has a German-speaking graduate student working as an administrator of sorts, helping out in a makeshift Swiss Summer Institute office on campus. The room is filled with local flavor and travel resource information provided by AAA, the American Automobile Association.

Yet, the teachers aren’t overwhelmed by the intense experience. Within two months of attending, last year’s group of teachers was using in the classroom what they had learned during the Institute. They posted a new web site detailing their trip. One teacher even provided FGCU with 3,000 photos on a CD that he took while he was here.

Christian Aeberli and Peter Marti from the Ministry of Education in the canton of Zürich, and Dr. Willi Walser, vice president of the Holzim Corporation, began their stay at FGCU on Thursday, July 12. The 60 Swiss teachers arrive on Monday. Later during the Institute, FGCU will host the canton of Zürich’s Minister of Education Ernst Buschor, three staffers from the minister’s office, and head of the Spenderverein Foundation Anton Schrafl.

For more information, contact:
· Dr. Larry Byrnes, Dean of the FGCU College of Education (941) 590-7822 or

· Dr. Victoria Dimidjian, Professor of Early Childhood and Counselor Education, and Coordinator of STSI 2001
(941) 590-7811 or

· Rob Garrick, Swiss Teachers Summer Institute Office, Griffin Hall 104
(941) 590-7749

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