When Union County Public Schools began classes a couple of weeks ago, one group of employees entered the doors of their workplace with a new perspective because of a summer trip.A weeklong trip in July allowed a group of Union County educators to travel to Costa Rica and experience Spanish immersion.The trip was organized by Sharyn Green VonCannon, principal at Unionville Elementary, who has been to Costa Rica four times. Those on the trip paid their own way by having fundraisers throughout the year.The 15 educators included music teachers, a physical education teacher, principals, a school secretary, a school counselor and other teachers. Kirsten Erving, who teaches second grade at Fairview Elementary, was one of the educators who participated.She lived with a family who spoke only Spanish; Erving doesn’t speak any Spanish. She said the house had no air conditioning and the toilet didn’t flush. Most mornings, she woke up to a lizard scurrying across the floor.Host families cook for their guests, and rice was incorporated into every meal, Erving added. There were no frills in the host homes, but all the educators were welcomed with hospitality. One night, her host family even had their large, extended family come to meet her.Erving said the sights and sounds included animals like iguanas, porcupines, monkeys, sloths and crocodiles.Members in the group also tried zip lines, saw a volcano and trekked through a rain forest.“It is also very cool that Costa Rica is trying to become the first carbon neutral country with a zero carbon footprint,” Erving said.But the educators main learning experience was about the people and the culture.“I will forever be sympathetic and understanding when there is a language barrier,” she said. “Just communicating the most simple thoughts is frustrating.“My host family was amazing, but I couldn't convey to them how much I appreciated their hospitality or tell them how much I enjoyed them. Hand gestures just don't do it; hopefully, the hugs did.”
Friday, Sep. 06, 2013
Breaking through the language barrier: Educators trek to Costa Rica
Kim Becknell Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kim? Email her at email@example.com.
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