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UW Students to Teach in Guatemala This Semester

January 6, 2009
Three women looking at a book
Guatemala-bound -- Kate Welsh, left, University of Wyoming associate professor of elementary and early childhood education, will oversee the progress this semester of UW students, Leslie Reiswig, Spearfish, S.D. (center) and Laura Lundell, Chugiak, Alaska. The two UW seniors will spend their residency semester at the Colegio Americano de Guatemala (American School of Guatemala,) in Guatemala City. (UW Photo)

When University of Wyoming College of Education seniors head to their student teaching assignments this spring, two young women will have a much further commute from Laramie -- and their home culture.

Laura Lundell, an elementary education student from Chugiak, Alaska, and Leslie Reiswig, elementary education, Spearfish, S.D., will spend their residency semester at the Colegio Americano de Guatemala (ASG -- American School of Guatemala,) in Guatemala City. Lundell will student teach in a third grade classroom and Reiswig in a second grade class.

They prepared for life in their host country at a one-week language school before beginning their classroom assignments. Each will live with a teacher from the school during their stay.

This is the fifth year that students from UW's Wyoming Teacher Education Program have experienced living in another culture while completing their residency requirements through a memorandum of understanding between the school and the UW College of Education.

The ASG is a private school, founded in 1945. Its mission is "to educate independent, critical-thinking, responsible, bilingual individuals prepared to meet the challenges of the future." About half of the students are from Guatemala; other students come from countries around the world. Teachers generally are hired from the United States and Canada to team teach with Guatemalan teachers.

Reiswig and Lundell expect to return from Guatemala with significantly sharper Spanish language skills. In fact, the opportunity to become bilingual -- and prepare for future assignments teaching second-language learners -- was a draw for them.

"This seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn some Spanish and see another part of the world," Lundell says.

Instruction and other school-based interactions will occur in English, according to Welsh. Interactions outside of school likely will stretch their Spanish skills more, particularly as they explore the area in their free time and possibly interact with students' families.

"Both of us will want to get out, travel and speak Spanish as much as possible," Reiswig says.

Kate Welsh, UW associate professor of elementary and early childhood education, will supervise the students using distance technology. She also will visit them in Guatemala City in March.

"We have technology to support us," Welsh says. "Ten or 12 years ago, it would have been much more difficult."

Physical distance may separate them, but the trio already had opportunities to build a closer relationship in advance of the residency semester. Welsh, Lundell and Reiswig have had multiple conversations about what to expect in the semester away and about handling culturally sensitive issues that might arise during their time in Guatemala.

Following graduation in May, both UW students look forward to teaching assignments in elementary classrooms. Lundell hopes to teach at the upper grade level, perhaps grades three to five, most likely east of the Rocky Mountain region.

Reiswig says she is open to teaching at any elementary level, with preferences for grades two or three. While she wants to teach anywhere, she acknowledges some preference for remaining in the region.

Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2009

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