International Teachers Create Spanish Event Where Students Shine
At W.D. Williams Elementary School, teachers from Spanish-speaking countries are the engines behind a dual-language program that celebrates culture at the same time that it gets young children to embrace speaking a second language. As part of the program, members of the Educational Partners International (EPI) exchange visitor program teach children from kindergarten through the fifth grade.
The results of their work could be seen and heard on the playground at the Swannanoa, North Carolina, school last spring, as first-graders proudly showed off what they had learned during the school’s first Dual Language Night. For the event, EPI program members created stands representing their countries: Jose Ruiz-Herrera Hernández (Spain); Kattia Mayorga Vindas (Costa Rica); Claudia Castillo (Mexico); and Consuelo Garzon, Jair Hinojosa Arias, and Yuliana Barrera Alonso (Colombia).
The children participated by speaking in Spanish and donning traditional dress from the countries they represented. At Castillo’s stand, her students explained key aspects about Mexico and sang songs.
“The kids learned about different countries in order to represent them to the families,” said Castillo, who organized the event. “Students taught the families about the geography, history, and cultural aspects of the country they represented.”
The variety of countries made for an entertaining outing for families.
“Everyone walked around to ‘visit’ each country,” Castillo said. “Parents and guests had a chance to taste traditional food from that particular country, play games, and hear about unique places to see.”
The experience was equally rewarding for the students, such as Castillo’s own pupils.
“It was an indescribable pleasure to see the excitement and confidence my students had while performing,” she said. “They are truly proud to learn Spanish and show it to their families.”
The event aimed to celebrate bilingualism and cultural diversity – and it met those goals.
“This was the first time we did this event at our school, and it was very successful,” Castillo said. “Parents, students, and staff were completely immersed in the experience.”
The 2021-2022 school year was the last for Castillo, Garzon, and Hernández. While they will be missed at W.D. Williams Elementary this year, the remaining EPI teachers are keeping the program going strong. And they are joined this year by Carmen Diana Saavedra, a new EPI program member from Peru.
With the ongoing contributions of teachers like these, EPI’s mission to facilitate and celebrate cultural exchange will continue to be a successful one.
*Photos courtesy of Buncombe County Schools Communications Department