In Spring 2009, I graduated from the Public University of Navarra with a B.A in Elementary Education with a specialization in Foreign Language Education. During those three years of intensive coursework, I had the chance to participate in an exchange program with Roanoke College, a small institution in the state of Virginia. This international experience gave me the opportunity to become immersed in American culture and language and, at the same time, learn to interact with amazing people from different backgrounds. Additionally, I found that my stereotypes about America were baseless and discovered the situation of elementary education in the United States. During the last semester at Roanoke, I worked with a third grade teacher for several hours a week as part of a class I was taking. Since this classroom was made up of students with different backgrounds and identities, I was able to understand the most common challenges that students face when learning a second language. It was a new experience for me, and it made me realize that what I want to do is teach in a multilingual community. Consequently, the following year, I worked as an ESL teacher in Spain. I was able to implement resources and methodologies that I learned during my study abroad year with successful results in terms of student performance. As an ESL specialist, I had to teach language through content areas such as Math, Science, and Computer Science. However, I felt that I still wanted to learn more about the teaching field; for this reason, after one year teaching in Spain, I returned to America, having received a scholarship from the government of Navarre (Spain) to pursue a Master’s Degree in TESOL and World Languages Education at the University of Georgia.
The University of Georgia offered me everything I was looking for: a beautiful town and campus, great weather, and most importantly, an excellent College of Education. During these two years of hard work, I have had the opportunity to learn not just in the classroom but also outside the classroom. I have participated in parent-teacher conferences and attended cultural nights in public schools in Georgia. I have discovered firsthand the characteristics of an important part of the Athens community: Latino families. I learned about the obstacles they encounter when arriving in a new country. Often, these families are not able to communicate with other residents because of language barriers, and they experience difficult situations due to the lack of economic resources. However, through workshops and dedicated coursework, I have learned how to help these parents become involved in the community and aide their children in becoming literate not only in English but also in their home language.
I believe that the interdisciplinary nature of the M.Ed. in TESOL and World Languages Education program offered to students made it a good option for me. During my studies, I have learned both practice and theory from a variety of perspectives covering how to teach a foreign language using effective resources and innovative ideas so that students enjoy learning a new language and the culture attached to it. This program has also provided me with my first contact with research. I have worked with outstanding professionals in the field of education, who have taught me how to excel in my work, not only as a scholar but also as a person. My advisor and other professors with whom I have worked have been a decisive factor in constructing the professional that I am today. In addition, I have had wonderful classmates who were willing to help me any time I had difficulties dealing with graduate school and with life in the United States. For instance, although I had a background in Foreign Language Education, my expertise in English was not outstanding when I entered this program. With the help of my classmates, I was able to make significant improvement in my proficiency in English. Additionally, my difficulties with English provided with greater insight into the challenges faced by English Language Learners.
Being able to work with children in the classroom while pursuing my M.Ed was important for me. Some of my classes required tutoring ESOL students, while others required the observation and analysis of how teachers scaffold students' understanding in the classroom. Although this participation in the classrooms did not count toward teacher certification, it was an enriching experience that helped me to improve as an educator and learn about the current situation of education in the United States. During these two years of intensive coursework, I was able to complement the previous knowledge acquired during my undergraduate years as well as my teaching experience with my graduate studies. Every course I have taken required critical thinking, reflection, and a meaningful understanding of the subject matter. I not only learned to teach a language, I also learned to reflect on what it means to be a language learner and a language teacher. I became aware of the difficulties and challenges that English Languages Learners deal with every day, and I also gained knowledge of the procedures to help these students become successful learners.
Overall, I graduate from the M.Ed. program with a solid understanding of what teaching ESOL or another world language involves. I have fulfilled the high expectations that I had when I was accepted into this program, and I am extremely satisfied with the results I have obtained during this period. During this time, I have considered my future as an educator in Spain. I have learned how to implement all I have acquired as a graduate student to my teaching in my home country. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to represent UGA by becoming a successful and knowledgeable scholar and practitioner. I believe that I am definitely prepared to work in the real world and effectively put into practice and share my expertise in the teaching of additional languages.