If you’ve ever wondered about the calibre of teachers at Salolampi Language Village in Bemidji, Minnesota, and what it is like to work in this unique immersive language envi-ronment, Laura Seppanen would love to tell you.
As a child, Seppanen enjoyed attending Salolampi so much, that she went on to work there as a Finnish language instructor. Her experience led to a life-long love for teach-ing, and currently, she is an ESL teacher in the Minneapolis school system.
“Working at Salolampi during the summer sparks ideas that I bring back to my classroom in Minneapolis,” Seppanen said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to see the joy that children have when they can learn in a fun and immersive environment.”
As her last name would denote, Seppanen hails from a Finnish family. Her great-grandparents on both sides emigrated from Finland. She is proud of her Finnish heritage, and she relishes the opportunity to teach its special language to children each summer. She is happy to see that like her, many villagers love Salolampi so much, they return year after year as well.
To explain why Salolampi, a unique camp supported by the Concordia Language Villages, Finlandia Foundation National and Salolampi Foundation, has become so successful in creating a joyful learning environment, Seppanen draws a comparison to Finland’s much admired school system. Touted as the top country in the world for education, Salolampi mirrors Finland’s attitude towards teachers and teaching methods in many ways, she said.
“In Finland, teachers are highly respected and well-trained for their positions, and, as a result, they are trusted to tailor a curriculum based on the individual needs of their classroom,” said Seppanen. “We have a large number of Finnish teachers who bring this philosophy with them. As a result, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn from one another, share ideas, and develop interactive programs that engage students at all age levels.”
Learning in nature and through play is a cornerstone of the Finnish educational system, and Salolampi, nestled on 800 acres of beautiful woods around Turtle Lake on the Concordia Villages site in Northern Minnesota, is no exception. Further, Salolampi’s architecturally authentic buildings, designed to create a 19th century Finnish village, enable students to imagine themselves in Finland. As a result, the need to communicate in “the local language” comes more naturally, Seppanen said.
In fact, she says, at Salolampi, students are not nervous about trying to speak like many children who find themselves in a strange foreign country for the first time.
“In the real world, it is common for foreign students to go through a ‘silent period’ when they first enter a country with a different language,” said Seppanen. “That doesn’t happen at Salolampi because our students are so comfortable right from the start. At first, we will encourage them to say a few words, and then, in a couple days, they are easily communicating in complete sentences. Since it is a fully immersive environment, chil-dren learn much more quickly and easily. It is an amazing process for a teacher to ex-perience!”
You can also view the organization’s recent press release on hiring opportunities here:
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