Immersing himself into a classroom – and culture
When he stepped off the plane, Javier Ruano Gomez had very little knowledge of Iowa. Oh, sure, he had read about our legendary winters.
“I will get used to the winter,” he said. “I don’t worry about it…for the moment.”
That’s because Ruano Gomez has bigger things to concern himself with. The educator, who hails from Albacete, Spain, is one of 18 teachers participating in the Visiting Teachers from Spain program. The teachers are being spread across the state with varying assignments, though most will teach Spanish.
Ruano Gomez has headed to Sioux City, where he will conduct an immersion class for first graders. There, he will teach science, math and Spanish – an assignment he particularly relishes.
“I’m really excited to teach Spanish and my culture to the little kids,” he said. “I also am eager to learn about their culture.”
The Visiting Teachers from Spain Program is a venture between the Iowa Department of Education and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Spain. The program was created to mitigate a shortage of qualified Spanish teachers in the state. In addition, the program teaches students how to interact, communicate, understand and respect other cultures.
Participants spend several days training at the Iowa Department of Education, learning everything from education expectations to domestic things, such as how much to tip wait staff.
Teaching an immersion program is nothing new to Ruano Gomez; he had done the same for the last seven years in the south of Spain. But coming to the United States – indeed, Iowa -- is new.
“My first impression was that it’s a quiet place and I feel comfortable here,” he said.
The United States, in general, and Iowa, in particular, appealed to Ruano Gomez.
“I came to Iowa for many reasons,” he said. “I like teaching my own language, I like studying new cultures. I always thought I would like to teach in a new a country. Why not the USA?”
Ruano Gomez’s teaching philosophy extends to the relationships educators must have with families.
"The relationship between teachers, kids and families is essential and really important for the kids’ development,” he said.
In his spare time, Ruano Gomez’s interest are wide and varied.
“I love sports, music and dance,” he said. “I also like swimming, running, skiing, hiking and traveling to discover new places and cultures."
Ruano Gomez said he’s looking forward to learning everything about Iowa. Even its weather.
“Tornadoes?” he said, grinning, “to me it’s just a concept. The reality may be different, I suppose.”