Education Students Experience Costa Rica Through Practicum

Pura vida: Brandon Allwood, McKenzie Bueck, Victoria Della Pia, Nonye Alozie, and Billy Hunter (left to right) at Para Elementary in Heredia.
Della Pia and Bueck with the youngest class, two- and three-year-olds.
Brandon Allwood teaches students to play lacrosse.
McKenzie Bueck helps a student with reading at Para Elementary.
Della Pia and Bueck play with students at Para Elementary.
Billy Hunter works with students during an English lesson.

July 10, 2014 | By Jake Weber

Albion College lacrosse players and education students Victoria Della Pia, '16, McKenzie Bueck, '17, and Brandon Allwood, '13 learned an unexpected lesson while recently introducing children in Costa Rica to their sport, "Teaching lacrosse was a great way to teach English," said Della Pia. "Through acting out the lacrosse terms, the students began to understand the English verbs and words. It was a great and fun way to teach two new ideas."

Lacrosse was one of many cross-cultural lessons shared by the recent participants (including Billy Hunter, '16) in the Education department's international practicum. The program was specifically designed in partnership with Costa Rica's Universidad Nacional (UNA) and Para Elementary School in Heredia to learn about teaching English as a foreign language. Each student conducted a comparative education inquiry project, taught lessons in the elementary school, and participated in teacher education courses at UNA.

Bueck spent several days observing classes at Para School. While her inquiry project focused on students' different learning styles, Bueck also found valuable instruction through watching one teacher handle discipline by having misbehaving children do crunches.

"He would just say a number and the kids would start doing them. It was a different way of getting students to understand without yelling," said Bueck, noting that the teacher was also quick to praise students for good behavior and good work. The two actions, said Bueck, "showed how to be serious yet loving towards a student."

A ‘passion and desire’ to teach

The Albion students were accompanied by education professor Nonye Alozie, who also co-taught some classes on science education to UNA education students. “Personally, I continued to learn how to relate to people in a different language. My Spanish isn't fluent, but the necessary immersion encouraged me to learn quickly, to increase my vocabulary and to engage with people culturally," Alozie commented. "I appreciated the UNA faculty's willingness to share and collaborate in order to create rich learning experiences for students at both UNA and Para Elementary School.

"Working with the children in Costa Rica really showed how much passion and desire I have to be a teacher," added Della Pia. "The energy and liveliness of the children’s smiles showed me how much they valued us being there. Para School is a very welcoming and enjoyable place, as both teachers and students want to be there and want to grow."

"I didn’t expect to make the relationships with the students and teachers that I did," Bueck commented. "One thing I really admired was the relationships between the students and the teachers. Costa Ricans express all of their emotions, regardless of their age. I found their relationships fascinating because Americans are not as open."

Lastly, Bueck noted that the experience of working with students and teachers in Costa Rica provided far more than intensive Spanish practice. "Physically being in the country, you are challenged with adapting to that country," Bueck noted. "You can read all you want, but you will never really know what a country is like unless you visit."

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