Two Northwestern College professors joined 11 other Iowa education professors and district and school administrators traveling to Villachuato, Michoacán, a rural village in central Mexico, for a cultural and language immersion experience Sept. 18–23. A collaborative effort between the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa’s area education agencies, the project was funded by a federal Teacher Quality Enhancement Grant.
One goal of the grant is to improve teaching for diverse learners, particularly English language learners. The purposes of the trip were to observe teaching and learning in Mexican classrooms, to visit with Mexican teachers about transitions that students encounter in moving from one schooling culture to the other, and to gain greater understanding of the community context of rural Mexico. Participants also experienced immersion in a second language and learned about Mexican culture.
Northwestern’s Carol Braaksma, instructor in English as a second language, and Jolynn Oliver, instructor in education, were nominated by the Iowa Department of Education’s Teacher Quality ELL Lead Team to join the cadre of school and college leaders.
Villachuato is home to many students who have relocated to Iowa. The team of educators lived with host families during the visit and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the elementary and middle schools in their community. They observed classroom instruction, spoke with teachers, and interacted with students. Participants returned to Iowa with enhanced views of the cultural and linguistic resources Mexican immigrant students bring to their new classrooms in Iowa, as well as heightened sensitivity to the conditions under which Mexican families immigrate.
Dr. Katherine Richardson Bruna from Iowa State University facilitated the educational/culture immersion experience.