May 17, 2011
by: Dollie Cromwell, Journalist
At 32, Rayna Rokicki has traveled a long and winding road on her way to teaching social studies and dance at Mosaic this fall.
Some may recognize her from ESAA, where she taught dance, or Riverview, where she taught social studies. Still others may remember her from her work at John Michael Kohler Arts Center. But her passion for teaching has taken her far beyond Sheboygan. She taught in her family’s ancestral home of Poland for a summer and at an international school in Burma for two years.
After Rayna finished her teaching certifications at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she and her husband, Andrew Bauman, wanted to “teach someplace that would be as different as possible and Myanmar (also known as Burma) was perfect.” Andrew took a sabbatical from his job teaching technology education at Oostburg High School.
“It was a tropical Buddhist paradise run by a horrible military dictatorship free from globalization due to international sanctions,” she explained. “The school was an elite private school designed to prepare students for American and British universities. The students generally were the upper class of Myanmar and consisted of Burmese, Thai, Korean and Chinese students mainly, with a sprinkling of other nationalities.”
Rayna said a highlight of teaching there was when she took students on a field trip out of the country to a Model United Nations Conference in Bangkok.
“It was a crazy and exciting two years,” she recalled. “In our time there, we experienced a Buddhist uprising against the government, an earthquake and Cyclone Nargis, which killed over 100,000 people.”
Rayna said she is a staunch advocate of traveling because of the understanding it fosters between people.
“Racism and stereotypes continue to plague our society, and I find that one way to dispel those stereotypes is to travel and spend time within a culture. I think it would be worthwhile for everyone to spend a month living within another culture, preferably a third-world culture.”
And while she’s happy to be back home in Sheboygan, Rayna said there are several places she’d still like to visit. At the top of her list are Turkey, Croatia, Iceland, Zanzibar, Peru and Panama.
Students, parents and fellow faculty members might also be surprised to know she’d also like to learn how to breakdance, to use a trapeze and to bake a perfect pie crust.
When she’s not at school, her hobbies include dancing, traveling, reading, kiteboarding, skiing, biking, yoga, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming and taking baths. “I love being in water!”
Rayna said she’s excited to be a part of Mosaic.
“As a kinesthetic learner and a dancer, I have always enjoyed learning by doing: physically understanding, exploring and expressing with my body,” she said. “Having the opportunity to teach at a school that allows for learning to occur in this way as well as a myriad of other ways is very exciting to me.”
She feels charter schools are the wave of the future.
“I think that we live in a different world, and we can’t keep approaching education in the same or similar manner. Charter schools allow both teachers and students greater flexibility in how they want to approach education.”
“It has been a wonderful experience to spend the past year researching innovative schools and best practices, collaborating with colleagues and designing the school,” Rayna added. “I wish I had attended a school like this when I was growing up.”