Edmonds, Scotland teachers swap places for a year

It would make a perfect Disney movie, or a TV sitcom. It’s real, though. Jennie Warmouth lived the plot of “Teacher Trade!”

That’s the title of a children’s book about Warmouth’s life-swapping experience that took her to Scotland.

Warmouth teaches second grade at Spruce Elementary School in the Edmonds district. In 2008, she participated in a Fulbright Teacher Exchange, trading places with a Scottish counterpart.

“We swapped houses, and traded families and friends,” Warmouth, 35, said Monday. “We’re both unmarried, so we took each other’s places socially.”

She and Heather Inglis (pronounced “Ingalls” in Scotland) didn’t go so far as to swap boyfriends, but Warmouth said they joked about it. Inglis was not available this week to be interviewed by email.

In Scotland, Warmouth spent her year teaching first grade at Roseburn Primary School in Edinburgh. An imposing Victorian building, Roseburn school was established in 1894. The place has a hint of Harry Potter’s fictional Hogwarts.

Like Warmouth, Inglis found herself in a dizzyingly different world. During the exchange year, she taught first grade at Spruce Elementary in Lynnwood. “Spruce has kind of a modern, California-style layout,” said Warmouth, adding that Inglis’ home school, Roseburn, “looks like a castle.”

While Spruce has more than 400 students, Roseburn has fewer than half that, and only one class per grade level. Roseburn Primary has a close-knit parent network, Warmouth said, while at Spruce many families are transient. The Lynnwood school also has a diverse population, with its families speaking 29 different languages.

“The schools were very opposite,” said Warmouth, who co-wrote “Teacher Trade!” with writer Gabriel Ayerza. Aimed at readers ages 6 to 9, the book is illustrated by Aya Sato. It includes both Sato’s artwork and photographs.

Proceeds from sales of the $14.95 book, published in June, are being donated to a scholarship fund for college-bound seniors in the Edmonds School District, Warmouth said.

The book was funded by the Fulbright Program, sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Fulbright provides grants for students and teachers from the United States and other countries, and offers international exchange opportunities.

Its programs are named for the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright. In 1945, the senator from Arkansas introduced legislation to create educational, cultural and scientific exchanges to promote international goodwill.

The teachers’ exchange experience began, after a long application process, with several days of orientation in Washington, D.C. That’s where Warmouth and Inglis met.

“Then we respectively flew in opposite directions,” Warmouth said. Neither returned home during the year. But Warmouth traveled in Europe during Scotland’s school breaks, and even managed a trip to India.

“I am a traveler. I try to get out there and see stuff,” said Warmouth, who has visited every continent except Antarctica. Since the exchange, she has worked toward a doctoral degree in educational psychology at the University of Washington. She has also traveled to Ghana, West Africa, with Scottish doctors and teachers she met through the Fulbright experience.

The book is “two identical stories,” Warmouth said. “The first half is me going to Scotland as an American teacher.” She revisited Inglis’ school in 2011, with the illustrator, to better understand what the Scottish teacher experienced here.

Inglis found the Seattle area to be larger than she expected, Warmouth said. Spruce Elementary had its surprises, too. The Scottish teacher had to adjust to the school’s intercom system, and kids eating breakfast at school.

For Warmouth, it took time to understand Scottish pupils’ accents. “They had no trouble understanding me. They see a lot of American media,” she said. There were 27 students in her Edinburgh classroom. First-grade curriculum was similar in both places, she said, but in Scotland primary students don’t take standardized tests.

“We both found more things were similar than different — but the differences were enough. We really did become learners,” Warmouth said. “I needed the kids to be my teachers in a lot of ways.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Book available

“Teacher Trade!” is a children’s book about Edmonds teacher Jennie Warmouth trading places with a Scottish teacher for a year. It’s available at Amazon.com and at the Edmonds Bookshop, 111 Fifth Ave. S., Edmonds. Proceeds from the book will fund a scholarship for students graduating from the Edmonds School District. More information can be found at www.teacher-trade.com.

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