Assignment: Education - International interns bring culture to the classroom

North Woods International School host to teachers from Spain and El Salvador

Assignment: Education - International Interns Bring Culture to the Classroom

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Third graders at North Woods International School in La Crosse are learning the Spanish words for household chores.

This foreign language class is part of the curriculum in the Spanish partial-immersion program.

But the teacher is not from La Crosse. Eugenia Lopez is from Spain and started the school year in August along with the staff from the School District of La Crosse.

"I finished my degree last year in June," said Lopez. "So, I'm officially a teacher. Here, I'm working as an assistant teacher."

She is one of four Amity Interns from Spain and El Salvador working with students alongside classroom teachers.

"They bring a certain authenticity to the language, the culture and to the lesson that I wouldn't be able to bring to the lesson," said Nancy Hanson, North Woods International School teacher.

"We found that it was really almost essential for us to have more Spanish-speaking people in the school with our children learning Spanish," said Sandy Brauer, North Woods International School principal.

While the Amity Interns are trained as teachers, they are also students, of sorts, learning an important skill to take back to their country.

"They're looking for experience. They're interning in another country," said Brauer. "And generally, what's in it for them is to learn the language and culture of the United States."

"My degree is to be an English teacher," said Lopez. "That's why I wanted to come here. Because I know that I need to prove a lot to teach, and to teach really good English to the kids."

But while she's at North Woods International, she's teaching really good Spanish to the kids at school and, in some cases, at home.

"I had an intern live with me and her name is Eugenia," said Sophia Stanton, fourth-grade student.

Eugenia lived with Stanton's family for the fall semester. The interns then live with a different host family from the school for the spring semester.

"The families look at it as an opportunity for their own children to get some skills in Spanish, talk to someone in Spanish," said Brauer. "Of course, the relationship from someone else from another country and culture really helps their children make those bonds that are so important for cultural competence."

"We tried a new food from Spain which was kind of like a thick - it was kind of like a cake, but it was made out of egg," said Stanton. "So that was a new food, and I thought it was really yummy."

While Eugenia can't live with each of the students in her class, she still is providing every student an experience teachers say will be with them for the rest of their lives.

"Many of these students will probably go on to enjoy international experiences themselves," said Hanson. "Perhaps, even live internationally someday. Perhaps, some of them will even grow up to be ambassadors or take on positions that will help benefit our country some day."

Educators hope all of these possibilities are anything but foreign to the students in this program.

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