Atlanta Educator and Author
travels to the Middle East for Children !
Russia’s southern neighbor on the Caspian Sea
Linda Lee Ratto, Ed.M. was a keynote speaker at the first annual “Integration of Children with Disabilities” Conference sponsored by World Vision and the Center for Innovation in Education. Mrs. Ratto was also honored at a booksigning and reception at the US Ambassador Reno Harnish and his wife Leslie’s home in Baku. In addition, hundreds of teachers from across Azerbaijan attended Mrs. Ratto’s workshop on how best to utilize the story and messages in her children’s chapter storybook: WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE, ages 7-12 years. DREAMS is an inspiring family story set in 1800’s Amish country, Pennsylvania and shows children and their families how important family and community are in living well, through and with disability and death.
“Teaching 300 post-soviet teachers how to participate in a workshop was a new challenge for me. I have keynoted in countries with translators before, but the Azerbaijani post-soviet citizens are highly unique. They have been raised not to think independently, nor with a great deal of creativity. Comprehending the participatory aspect of a workshop, rather than the customary attending of a lecture, was the first growth spot for the teachers and me! Fourteen Azeri teachers were asked to lead small groups of 10-20, reading aloud the first few pages of WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE’s fourteen chapters. Next I asked them to collaborate by doing one of the numerous activities provided in the Azeri translation of my teacher guide. Finally, a leader from each of the groups was to come on stage and summarize -- in a couple of sentences-- their chapter and speak about their activity. This is where their past soviet training was a hindrance – all but two teachers simply retold the chapter at length. Few had time to talk about the activities associated each chapter because they repeatedly, one-by-one, just retold the chapter. Nonetheless, we ended the two hour workshop well, with all of the teachers deeply knowing the story WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE and having done select activities. They are prepared for teaching the book in August when they will begin school year 2005-06, even though the workshop format was new to them.”
The week-long education conference and book tour took Mrs. Ratto to a school for children with severe disabilities and a private meeting with Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, MD the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Azerbaijani President’s wife. After numerous booksignings, meeting dozens of ambassadors, directors of oil companies (the largest oil pipeline in the world opened on the Caspian Sea in Baku in May 2005), and heads of state, Mrs. Ratto and her husband of thirty years David traveled to Newcastle, England to meet with the co-author of another of her books.
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Ms. Ratto lives in Atlanta with her husband of 30+ years, David, and has 3 grown children and 2 grandchildren.
Educator, former principal, CEO, and author Ratto also appeared on national television with three Azeri high school English students who read WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE in English with their English teacher, Elmira. The hour long TV discussion centered around the challenges of integration and also the three students’ impressions of the book. Though WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE is a younger read, the three students, age 16 thought the book brought home deep understanding of the need to allow children of all abilities to attend school throughout Azerbaijan. (In this country all children with disabilities are placed in institutions or stay at home with little or no education provided.) Mrs. Leslie Harnish, who serves as the Children’s Program Director for World Vision and is the US Ambassador’s wife, joined in the television show and shared the Education Conference’s first year pilot program’s successes in “Integrating Children with Disabilities.”
Linda with the Italian Ambassador's wife, Mrs. Iwona Pavesi. Iwona lead the Baku International School's fundraising campaign, along with USA Ambassador's wife Mrs. Leslie Harnish and a dozen other Embassy spouses from across the globe, in raising $80,000 to translate and produce the Azernaijan version of Linda's children's book, Where Dreams Come True !