More student teachers will have the chance to immerse themselves in another culture as the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater expands its popular study trip to Ecuador.
For the last few years, seniors studying early childhood education have had the opportunity teach for eight weeks at the bilingual Center for Interamerican Studies elementary school in Cuenca, Ecuador, a city nestled in the Andes mountains. This year, the program has been expanded to include students majoring in elementary, art and music education.
By opening the program to other majors, Ecuador schools benefit by having more specialized teachers and the UW-Whitewater students benefit by gaining a valuable teaching experience, said Simone DeVore, professor of special education and faculty adviser for the trip.
"My favorite part is listening to and experiencing the different philosophies of teaching," said DeVore. "Students get to see what can happen for children who are in an inclusive environment, where students and teachers are on equal footing."
The children taught range in age from 2 to 13, with a variety of learning abilities and disabilities.
"Classroom management is a lot different there because there's not a lot of discipline," said alumna Ashley George, who went to Ecuador last fall. "Children were free to get up and walk around."
During the trip, students live with a host family, study the Spanish language and culture and travel on the weekends to historical sites and indigenous villages.
Students say their most memorable adventures include camping in the Andes mountains, zip-lining, visiting the Inca ruins in Ingapirca, and seeing the celebration of Cuenca Independence Day.
"It was really neat to be able to experience a holiday in a different country," said alumna Becky Heise. "We got to experience all their different parades, all the beautiful costumes that they wear, and their dances and their music and just to compare their traditions of their holidays to, say, the United States' Fourth of July."
"You grow in so many different ways," said alumna Aimee Gouvion. "You grow within the school, you grow within the culture, you grow with your host family and you grow with your cohort, too."
This fall, 10 students will teach at the school in Ecuador. For more information, contact DeVore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-472-5808.