Teachers from Spain ‘les gusta mucho’ Iowa
“Iowa Nice” has reached Spain. Or so say 12 educators from Spain who have made their way to Iowa to teach Spanish in the coming school year.
“We were told that Iowa has very nice people and are very welcoming.” “I am liking what I am seeing. Everyone has been so helpful. I’m grateful.”
Those were just some of the comments made during a recent training among the dozen educators. And make no mistake: They all chose Iowa.
“We didn’t want a big city because we wanted to be a part of the community,” another said, citing Iowa’s hundreds of smaller communities.
The dozen educators are part of the Iowa Department of Education’s Visiting Teachers from Spain program. They are certified Spanish language educators with at least three years of experience, and come to Iowa to teach for up to three years. They teach in districts that have demonstrated difficulty in finding Spanish teachers.
Some educators will be teaching Spanish in high school, and others will be teaching Spanish in dual-language and immersion schools at the elementary level.
All agree that part of their journey to Iowa enables them to learn the American culture. Already they noticed big differences. In Spain, for instance, it’s customary to have five meals a day (smaller portions) and use that time for quality time with friends and family.
And then there’s Iowa’s legendary winters, where snow can drift upwards of several feet and so-called polar vortexes can blast through the warmest of coats. In contrast, Spain’s winters are relatively mild, with daytime highs ranging from 41 to 57 degrees.
The teachers also will experience the American school system, where it is common that an instructional coach will drop by the classroom to quietly assess how the instruction is going -- something that most teachers from Spain will find, well, foreign.
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 (in Spain, wait staff make far more base money than in the United States).
This year’s Visiting Teachers from Spain are in Audubon, Central City, Exira, Marshalltown, Waterloo, West Central of Maynard and West Liberty. They are also stationed at parochial schools: Bishop Heelan in Sioux City, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Dubuque, and Holy Trinity in Fort Madison.