IDAR-OBERSTEIN, Germany -- The U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz commander visited Göttschied Elementary School to strengthen the German-American relationship with the local Idar-Oberstein community, March 26.

Col. Jason T. Edwards and his wife, Jackie, were invited by principal Nicole Bier for a tour of the school, but Team Edwards wanted to make the visit more interactive by incorporating a Zumba class and a story hour for the students.

Forty children got their hearts racing with a total-body cardio workout that incorporated dance and aerobic movements performed to lively music.

Dancing was new to Tristian Z. who tried the workout for the first time with his classmates and principal.

"From now on, we want to do this at every sports class," said Tristian Z. "Mrs. Edwards is very nice and speaks English well."

The class was also fun for Alina P. who kept up with the fast-pace session.

"This was a great sports class. The music was soulful and everything was in English -- that was cool," she said. "This helps us to better understand the language. I personally learned a couple of new words."

Dancing in the class was inspiring, said Khawla A., who "never had such a class before. I hope she comes back again."

The session was enjoyable and fun for the instructor too, who instructs classes in the military community as well.

"It was my first time teaching a Zumba class to German children, and it was absolutely fun," said Jackie Edwards, a school teacher and professional fitness instructor. "I was impressed by how quickly they caught on and how well behaved they were. The students showed great enthusiasm and enjoyed the class just as much as I did."

Being the mother of two school-aged children herself, Jackie asked the students for recommendations for fun things to do in the local area, and the children responded with visits to Trier, Idar-Oberstein, golf and a nearby gemstone mine.

On a calmer note, the commander chatted with children in another classroom about his job, family and the places he was stationed. He also read a book in English to students to reinforce their language skills. This builds upon an initiative started in 2013 by Bier, the school parent-teacher committee and the Baumholder Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, encouraging Soldiers to read to students.

"The use of a foreign language, English in this case, in real situations promotes successful learning," Bier said.

This is the first year that teacher Nick Gedratis was involved in the Baumholder BOSS reading program, and said "it was very interesting to see how the children interact and speak English," the educator said. "They had many questions for the commander and seemed to be very interested -- that's great. Talking with a native-speaking person is by far better than anything else."

Any opportunity to develop relationships between our communities is superb, said the commander.

"I was blessed to not only represent the U.S. Army, but do so with my beautiful wife Jackie as a teammate. I was able to read to the class and answer a wide variety of questions and Jackie was able to teach a Zumba class and get the kids active and have fun -- something she is very well suited for," he said. "It was great to see all the kids smiling after her class. The attention and discipline of the classes were amazing, and I loved the fact the students were so engaged not to mention the enthusiasm of the staff."

Although both have a lot on their plate every day, Team Edwards was happy to meet and learn more about people within the garrison's footprint and support their long-standing, solid partnership.

"I have a very busy schedule, but this was such a blessing to engage with such an amazing group of kids and such a welcoming community," Edwards concluded.