Russian educators visit Oak Ridge and Area Institutions

by Betsy Abernathy

March 7, 2013

A version of this article was published in The Oak Ridger on March 7, 2013


Reinforcing a connection forged during a visit three years ago, Russian professor Anastasia Mamayeva returned to Oak Ridge in late February 2013 to continue her study of American special education systems, facilities, and teaching techniques. Accompanied by five women from her university, the Krasnoyarsk State University of Pedagogy in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, Mamayeva worked with Ken and Jerralyn Luckmann of Oak Ridge to arrange the ten-day visit.


Mamayeva, whose specialties are pediatric speech disorders and working with children with severe mental disabilities, maintained the connections she made on her first visit, which was sponsored by Open World, a U.S. Congressional agency that facilitates professional exchanges between Russia and other Eurasian countries and the United States. With the help of the Luckmanns, Mamayeva conducted three teleconferences after her return to Russia in 2010, speaking with students and staff from the Emory Valley Center of Oak Ridge, special education teachers from the Oak Ridge schools, and students and staff from the Tennessee School for the Deaf in Knoxville. Through her advocacy, she received funding from her university to return to Oak Ridge this year with a delegation from her university. Accompanying her were Elena Chereneva, also a professor at Krasnoyarsk State University who specializes in autism and is one of the founders of the International Autism Institute, three graduate students in the special-education field, and Tatyana Gubernatorova, an English language lecturer from the university who served as interpreter during the trip.


The Luckmanns prepared a full schedule for the group, who spent each day visiting special education facilities in East Tennessee. They were able to observe special education students and classes, sit in on undergraduate and graduate level classes, speak with educators and administrators, and make presentations about their university, programs, and facilities in Krasnoyarsk.


The group spent a day and evening at the Tennessee School for the Deaf. A group from the school, which may include educators, administrators, students, and parents, is planning to travel to Krasnoyarsk in March 2014.


The Russian delegation also visited the Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge, the Michael Dunn Center in Kingston, and special education classes at Robertsville Middle School, as well as Tennessee Tech University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Through David Cihak, professor of special education at UT, the group visited special education classes at Karns Middle School, Bearden High School, and a work-study program where peer tutors assist learning-disabled students in on-site job training. The group also participated in a discussion with college students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and autism who are in a post-secondary program at UT.


Future collaborative research, possibilities of student exchanges, continued videoconferences, and other kinds of information sharing were enthusiastically discussed by the Russians and their American counterparts at many of the venues the delegation visited.


One of the topics of greatest interest to the Russian delegation was the extent to which the mentally and physically disabled population is integrated into “regular” schools and programs in the U.S., rather than being segregated into separate facilities.


The group was hosted in separate homes through the Sister City Support Organization. A tour of Oak Ridge, a visit to Big Ed’s pizza restaurant, at trip to the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, and a shopping expedition were squeezed into the busy schedule.


Mamayeva and the rest of the delegation extended enthusiastic invitations to visit Krasnoyarsk, a city of just under a million located in the geographical center of Russia, to both their American colleagues at the various facilities and schools they visited, and their Oak Ridge hosts.



During a visit to the Emory Valley Early Learning Center, Russian special education professor

Anastasia Mamayeva, left, and Russian graduate student Svetlana Trifonova, entertain the class

 with a Russian fairy tale.


Professors and students from the Krasnoyarsk State University of

Pedagogy visited the Friendship Bell during their trip to Oak Ridge.

From left, Elena Chereneva, Svetlana Trifonova, Tatyana Gubernatorova,

Daria Mostovaya, Maria Epishinia, and Anastasia Mamayeva.


While visiting the Colleges of Education at Tennessee Tech University, the

Russian delegation got a tour of the Assistive Technology Center. Here, Angie

McCoy, who provides support services at the university as an interpreter for

the deaf, demonstrates a telecommunication device for the deaf by chatting

onscreen in American Sign Language with her deaf brother. Pictured clockwise

from left are Elena Chereneva, Daria Mostovaya, Tatyana Gubernatorova,

Svetlana Trifonova, Anastasia Mamayeva, and Angie McCoy.


Photos by Jerry Luckmann