Peace Corps member brings teaching style to Delavan-Darien, East Troy – and Togo

By Callie Koehne



Verstehen, a German word roughly translated to mean “meaningful understanding,” has been the focus of Julie Quartucci’s sociology class at Delavan-Darien High School.

Quartucci, who has spent 30 years in the district, always does her best to do something different for her junior and senior sociology students.

“I’d rather show them what it means in practice than just go from the book,” she said.

This year, just before her class got to the unit focused on culture and social structure, she heard about a former student, Zach Weerts, who graduated from Wisconsin Eau Claire in 2023.

He’d recently joined the Peace Corps and accepted a teaching assignment in Togo.

Zach had been in her AP Psych class before he graduated from DDHS in 2018 and Quartucci knew Weerts’ father, Mark – principal at Prairie View Elementary School in East Troy.

Fifth graders in Holli Wolter’s classroom had just made a connection to Zach in Togo, and the elementary-aged children he was teaching in his small rural village.

“We realized what a great resource we had available,” Quartucci said. “It isn’t often that classrooms across the world get the chance to interact and learn from one another.”

Everyone involved felt like it was an opportunity that couldn’t be squandered.

Wolter’s class started their journey to Togo with a geography game called “Where in the world is Zach Weerts?”

At the beginning of the school year, the students guessed where he might be, picking over continents, countries and jumping across the ocean.

Once they found him, their game turned into video exchanges from Zach’s Class to Wolter’s, based on certain themes. Each class told the other what school was like where they lived, they talked about how the weather was different, what sports they liked to play.

In one video, Prairie View students sent a video of themselves playing in six feet of snow, an idea completely revolutionary to children who live seven degrees of latitude north of the equator.

“The thought behind all of this was giving our kids here at East Troy an opportunity to be able to expand their knowledge beyond our community into the much larger world,” Mark Weerts said.

Quartucci’s sociology class learned everything they could about Togo before they spoke with Zach for the first time.

“I told them, ‘we have boots on the ground there, so what are we going to ask?’” she explained. “How are we going to look at this idea of culture and learn about another part of the world?”

Quartucci helped her class collaborate on a list of questions they put together for Zach. They asked how much things cost, what the dating scene is like, what kinds of things he isn’t allowed to do. They asked what it looks like when he teaches, what their religion is – basically, any question Quartucci said students could think of.

Zach got the list and sent the class a document with everything in it to help them understand the basics of the country, the ethnic make up and the languages. He laid everything out so they could see what it looked like on paper.

Then, he sent a video and answered every question.

He told them about being thrown into the fire of learning the local language right away, and how the first thing that he noticed when he got off the plane was how hot it was, coming from Northern Wisconsin. He told them how it was amazing to realize that kids are kids everywhere.

“I think what a lot of times is missed is that we see a lot of National Geographic things about Africa and West Africa or just any part of the globe and although those videos are beautiful and amazing I think it sort of ‘others’ them in a sense,” Zach Weerts said. “It makes them seem like they’re so far and different from us and it’s not the case.”

In the 20-minute long video, Zach spoke to students at DDHS about the importance of taking off their western glasses, that something might initially strike them as weird but when they take the time to step back and take into account culture and history it’s easier to have understanding and acceptance.

“That’s what I hope my students take from this class,” Quartucci said. “I hope they go out into the world and understand that any time they’re interacting with other people they’re using the tools they’ve gained in sociology. I hope they remember that it all comes down to one thing: understanding.”

When asked what they had learned through this experience The Prairie View fifth graders responded, “Don’t base your thoughts on stereotypes,” and,  “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and listen.”

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