GNJILANE/GJILAN, Kosovo Kosovo students from Musa Zajmi school recited poems, performed traditional dances and acted out a scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," in English, for more than 30 soldiers of Multi-National Battle Group-East on Feb. 15 at Teatri Kombetar here.
The performance was the culmination of a three-year relationship between Kosovo Forces soldiers and Musa Zajmi school. The students banded together to put on a performance of appreciation for the soldiers and all they've done for the school over the years.
Capt. Brock Larson, Fort Ransom, Master Sgt. John Waters, Emerado, and Spc. Abbey Tews, Jamestown, have been volunteering to teach English at the school with Mejreme Berisha, a ninth-grade English teacher. It's a project they inherited from the Kosovo Forces 10 rotation.
Tews began teaching at the school in November with the assistance of Waters and Larson.
The performance started with two students providing an introduction, one in Albanian and the other in English. Sami Hoxha, school director, then addressed the crowd of soldiers and more than 100 students.
The students showed off their talents and what they had learned by reciting poems in English. A student even went for extra credit, reciting Berisha's favorite poem "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost.
"They did such a great job, it made me proud to be a part of their learning and wanting to put on a program for KFOR-12," Waters said.
Waters gave his thoughts on the importance of the presentation.
"I think it was to show over the past few years how well they have learned to read and speak English. Also, to be able to speak and read two languages at such a young age will be beneficial to them in the future."
Larson enjoyed seeing the fruits of the children's labor flourish on stage.
"The performance was well done. I could tell the students and Ms. Berisha put in a lot of hard work preparing for this event and it showed through during the performance," Larson said. "Their proficiency in the English language was clearly demonstrated through song, poems and theater acts. We all were very impressed."
Spc. Lance Schillinger, Gwinner, with the 231st Maneuver Task Force, had visited the school before and returned to watch the performance.
"The performance was excellent," he said. "The ability to put on such a show in a secondary language was impressive. And to be able to see a 'thank you' to our soldiers for the efforts that we did for their school was great."
Spc. Callie Craddock, Grand Forks, also with the 231st MTF, said it was important for the soldiers to attend to show their support of local efforts, especially those of the children.
"These events are also a great way to provide cultural awareness to soldiers," she said.
Sgt. Michael Hornbake, a fellow 231st soldier, echoed Craddock's sentiment.
"This work is truly meaningful in these people's lives," he said. "As a guest in their country, we have a responsibility to be a good guest. We should listen to their expressions of gratitude and treat them with respect by accepting it humbly and graciously."
For years, U.S. KFOR soldiers have held regular English classes throughout the U.S. area of responsibility in southeastern Kosovo. Because of vast improvements in the educational opportunities for Kosovo students and because of the increased ability of Kosovo schools to provide these classes, U.S. forces will continue step back and let schools take the lead roles.
"We are seeing wonderful results of the efforts that were started years ago when English classes were first taught by American soldiers to the children of Kosovo," said Brig. Gen. Al Dohrmann, commander of Multi-National Battle Group-East. "Kosovo students, with their teachers, now are able to step forward and take on these highly popular classes without our help. The performances by the Musa Zajmi students show how far they have progressed in their studies and how well equipped their teachers are to educate Kosovo's generations of tomorrow."