For the past 16 years, the Alliance for Catholic Education has missioned graduates of ACE and other UCCE programs to teach internationally in Santiago, Chile, as part of ACE in Chile (ChACE). Throughout the 18-month program, these master educators grow as teachers and leaders while immersing themselves in an international cultural experience. This includes leadership opportunities, meaningful professional development, and growth in Spanish language fluency. Following a four-month language and school immersion, "ChACErs" spend one academic year teaching English at Saint George's College in Santiago.
Over the next few weeks and months, we will be hearing from members of the most recent ChACE cohort through a series of blog posts. Below is the first installment from Jack Casey, which describes the group's Spanish language classes in Quito, Ecuador.
‘¡Saludos desde Ecuador!’ We are currently finishing our fourth week in lovely Quito. Here, our main focus is to prepare for our upcoming teaching responsibilities in Chile. More than anything else our preparation involves improving our Spanish language skills. Our mornings largely consist of Spanish classes at ‘Vida Verde’; a Spanish language school in ‘La Floresta’ neighborhood of Quito.
Though it is a change of pace to be on the student side of the classroom at this time of the year, our classes have been hugely helpful in adjusting to life in South America and preparing for our teaching positions in Santiago. The class sizes are very small and the professors bring a passion for teaching, positive energy, and expert knowledge of Quito and Ecuador in general. In just a few short weeks, many of us have made significant progress in our Spanish, which will certainly help us immensely in our ability to communicate with our future students, families, and neighbors in Chile.
In addition to improving our Spanish skills, we are also actively preparing to teach English as a foreign language to our future students. Most of us are enrolled in Notre Dame’s English as a New Language program where our coursework teaches us to meet the unique needs of English Language Learners. It has been interesting applying our readings from these courses to our past two years as teachers in the University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE) programs, and we are excited to bring what we are learning to Chile.
In a special way, our own Spanish classes are also a great means of preparation for teaching a foreign language. First, we get to put ourselves in the shoes of our soon-to-be bilingual students, helping us to empathize with their struggles and successes as they master a foreign language. Second, we are gathering effective teaching techniques from our own Spanish professors. Though we know our teaching context in Chile will be vastly different from our past two years, we are confident that experiences with Teaching Fellows, ENL, and our current Spanish classes have equipped us well the skills, flexibility, and patience necessary to be successful at St. George’s.
Of course, we don’t spend all of our time hitting the books. When studying Spanish (or any language for that matter), the cultural context of the language is just as important as any grammar or vocabulary. With this in mind, we’ve made it a priority to immerse ourselves in our new environment through living with Ecuadorian families, spending our afternoons experimenting with local foods, pursuing local cafes and bookstores, exploring new neighborhoods of the city, taking salsa lessons and running in parks.
We have made some Ecuadorian friends who are ‘ful chévere’ (really cool) and they have shown us a bit of Quito from a local perspective. The city’s nightlife is entertaining, varied and generally cheap. Our weekends give us the opportunity to enjoy the wide variety of natural beauty that Ecuador has to offer. So far, we’ve gone kayaking in a volcanic crater lake, we’ve been to the equator (‘La Mitad del Mundo’), we’ve climbed to the peak of Ruco Pichincha, an impressive 4,696 meters (15,407 feet) above sea level, and we’ve gone white water rafting on a tropical river. After all of these experiences and our upcoming trip to the rainforest, we will only scratch the surface of Ecuador’s vast natural and cultural diversity in our six weeks here. That said, we aim to make the most of the few weeks we have left in this beautiful country.
As much as we will miss our time in Ecuador, we are also anxiously awaiting our arrival in Santiago to begin our new adventure there. ‘Hasta entonces, ¡les deseamos lo mejor a todos!’
For more information on the ACE in Chile (ChACE) program, please visit ace.nd.edu/chace, or contact the Director, Matt Rhodes, at .