To prepare for careers as future teachers in classrooms with diverse students, 10 undergraduates from Kansas State University's College of Education spent three weeks this summer in Guatemala to enhance their abilities to work with and relate to students from all backgrounds.
The students were participating in a College of Education study abroad program to expand their worldview and help them learn more about teaching children whose first language is not English.
Through the program, which has been offered by the college for the last five years, the students live with host families, spend time assisting teachers in public schools and visit points of interest to gain knowledge of the culture and history of the respective country. Along with this year's stay in Guatemala City, the program has previously taken students to Asuncion, Paraguay, and Chihuahua, Mexico.
This summer the students worked at Escuela Miguel Magone, a public school in Guatemala City that enrolls children from pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade.
"The majority of the children who attend the school come from families who work in the fields, planting and harvesting crops outside the city," said Linda Trujillo, an assistant professor of elementary education at K-State who accompanied the students on the trip.
"All the children in the school receive instruction in English as a second language, so the K-State undergraduates were able to provide considerable assistance to the school's lone English language teacher," Trujillo said. "In return, the children offered their services as Spanish teachers to the K-State students. Interestingly, many of the children spoke a second language at home – one of the many indigenous languages of Guatemala."
Trujillo said through their experience in Guatemala, the K-State students gained a better understanding of how to teach and effectively connect with students who are from different cultures and speak a different language.
"They realized that living, learning and participating in a culture which is unfamiliar to one provides future teachers opportunities to understand how intimidating school life can be for immigrant children and other English-language learners," she said.
"Visiting another country for an extended period of time -- even just three weeks -- enables one to have firsthand experience learning about and understanding a new culture," said Molly Hamm, a K-State senior in secondary education and English, Shawnee, who was a trip participant. "Ultimately, that knowledge helps one to be aware of one's own culture and how it impacts one's actions and interactions."
Also accompanying Trujillo and students on the trip were K-State faculty members Socorro Herrera, professor of professor of elementary education and executive director of the Collaborative Intercultural Multilingual Advocacy Center in the College of Education; and Gilbert Davila, assistant professor of leadership studies.
Along with Hamm, students participating in the study abroad experience in Guatemala included:Melanie Errebo, senior in elementary education, Concordia; Ashley Robinson, senior in elementary education, Lawrence; Carina Diaz de Leon, junior in secondary education-mathematics, Liberal; Maggie Fisher, senior in elementary education, Prairie Village; Jenny Cole, senior in elementary education, Russell; Monica Strahm, senior in secondary education-modern languages, Sabetha; Bobby Gomez, senior, elementary education, Shawnee; McKenzie Atchison, senior in elementary education, Ulysses; and Kimberly Avery, senior in elementary education, Wichita.