Technology

Teachers from Spain share culture with Iowa school

Posted September 17

— Gabriela Alonso wanted to get to know American culture and experience what teaching methods look like in the United States.

That desire brought Alonso, a native of Spain, to Dubuque this year to teach second-graders at Our Lady of Guadalupe Spanish Immersion Program.

While she's here, she wants help students understand not just her language, but her culture as well.

"I think that learning a language is not just the language," she said. "It's the culture, because otherwise you can't understand people."

Alonso isn't alone. Three teachers and one associate teacher, all of whom call Spain home, joined the staff this year.

The Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/2cbgPXU ) reports that the school works with the Iowa Department of Education and the Embassy of Spain's education office to bring in international teachers.

The campus has hosted teachers from the country for at least 10 years. Principal Lori Apel said the educators from overseas help students glean a more global perspective.

"It allows the children to think globally, to be sensitive to other cultures as well as to grow in appreciation for different cultures," Apel said.

Alonso arrived in the U.S. in late July and has been adjusting to the many ways her new home differs from her home country. The schedules, food, bathrooms and even the way people drive all are different, she said.

She said that while the transition has been tough, she's received a lot of help and support from other teachers. The school community has helped her family get set up in town as well.

Teaching also is different, according to Alonso. She's been adjusting to new routines and is adjusting to working with elementary students after primarily working with older children.

While in Dubuque, Alonso has had the chance to see different classrooms and other teachers at work, she said.

"I love how they speak to students," she said. "They are really patient and they say things always in a positive way. And I love that."

Alonso has been finding ways to tell her students about Spanish culture and the differences between life in the two countries. She also wants to teach them to flamenco dance.

Luis Gomez, of Madrid, is marking his first year at Our Lady of Guadalupe as a first-grade teacher. He said he is excited to be at a new school.

Gomez said the education system in the U.S. is different from the one in Spain. The schedules in the U.S. seem to be more flexible, for one thing, he said.

During his time at the school, he has worked to build relationships with the staff and with his students.

"I provide new strategies with my students, new methodologies," Gomez said.

Jaime Gordo, who is from Valencia, Spain, arrived in the U.S. this summer and now teaches third- and fourth-graders at Our Lady of Guadalupe. He said he thought his time in the U.S. would be a good opportunity to get to know another culture, learn new ways of teaching and develop as a professional.

Gordo said he likes the U.S education system, but he still needs some time to adjust.

"I think when I get used to it, it will be an even better experience than teaching in Spain," he said.

Gordo said his background helps him impart an international perspective to his students.

"We can bring our culture to show them how it is in Spain. It's not only Dubuque," he said. "They can see that global thinking."

Mia McDermott, a third-grader in Gordo's class, said the several teachers she's had who weren't from the U.S. have helped her learn Spanish.

"You probably learn a lot more than from somebody who just learned Spanish when they were younger," she said. "And it's pretty cool because they can tell you all about Spain."

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