The Visiting Teachers from Spain program is an international cooperation program sponsored by the Education Office of the Embassy of Spain in the United States and various state Departments of Education.
The program started back in the mid-1980s in California and New York. Since then, it has expanded to more than 30 states and has had more than 5,000 participating teachers.
The Visiting Teachers from Spain program enables local school districts in Kentucky to hire highly qualified, licensed, native Spanish-speaking educators to teach at elementary, middle and high schools. The visiting teachers have a minimum of three years of experience in bilingual or multicultural education, most have master’s degrees. All are rigorously pre-screened, are open to new methodologies and have a strong interest in international education.
The visiting teachers make a one to three-year commitment to teach in Kentucky, provided that the school district agrees to hire them. Participating districts employ these teachers in accordance with state regulations and policies and pay them according to their experience and certification level.
This program helps address critical staffing needs that would otherwise go unmet. Often, districts and schools find it difficult – if not impossible – to find qualified, Spanish-speaking teachers to fill teaching positions, both for immersion and Spanish as a world language. By utilizing the Visiting Teachers from Spain program, both the visiting Spanish teachers and the communities, staff and students they serve stand to benefit greatly from the experience.
One example of how a principal can benefit from this program in an immersion school is Lester Diaz, principal at Bryan Station Middle School (Fayette County).
Diaz applied for the program because of the possibility of finding “high quality teachers with excellent and well-rounded experience, core content teachers in Spanish language, high levels of support from KDE and the ministry of education in Spain,” he said “I can bring multicultural, experienced and well-trained teachers.”
Bryan Station Middle School now has four teachers from Spain thanks to its participation in this program.
“I love what they offer to our students in the area of global awareness and competency,” Diaz said.
Shannon Sageser, principal of Henry County High School, said he also was looking for a Spanish teacher who could offer strong skills in global competency for their next Spanish teacher.
“When searching for a qualified candidate, I was informed about the Visiting Teachers from Spain program,” Sageser said “This sounded like a fantastic opportunity to provide our students with a quality, real-world experience.
“When I was in middle school, I had the pleasure of having a visiting teacher from England teaching my 8th-grade social studies class. It’s something I had always remembered and valued.”
Sageser said his school’s students truly benefit from the passion for teaching that Aurora Benavente, the new Spanish teacher, brings to the classroom.
“Her high standards and rigorous teaching not only challenge our students, but also provide enriched learning,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for Ms. Benavente to contact her relatives in Spain to provide opportunities for her students to practice their Spanish in real-life conversation.
“Ms. Benavente goes beyond the language aspect of teaching her students. The cultural insights in her teaching provides her students a newfound respect and understanding for the Spanish way of life.”
Carlos Berrozpe, the education adviser for the Embassy of Spain for Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, said the program also benefits the traveling teachers.
”The students are exposed to a different culture and they are fortunate to learn Spanish with a native speaker,” he said. “Bringing a teacher from abroad gives the students, their families and the whole school community a broader, more global perspective to their school life and their future.
“Kentucky is such a welcoming state that the teachers all are saddened when it is time to go back to Spain. We are incredibly proud of our partnership with KDE and with all the participating schools and districts and we are very grateful to them all.”
Meet two of the visiting teachers from Spain
Leticia Isabel López Rioja comes to Kentucky from Madrid, Spain. Since 2014, she has been the Spanish teacher at Campbellsville High School (Campbellsville Independent).
López Rioja taught in high school for five years in Spain before being recruited as a Visiting Teacher from Spain. She applied to participate because she was fascinated with the idea of living in another country and being able to learn its culture and traditions.
“The United States of America is a country that I always wanted to travel to and know better,” she said. “This program has provided me an incredible opportunity to do so, while improving my skills in English language and growing as a professional.”
Francisco Luis Castillo Dieguez – also known as “Curro” – comes to Kentucky from Granada, Spain. Since 2014, he has been the 7th- and 8th-grade social studies teacher in the Spanish immersion program at Bryan Station Middle School (Fayette County). He also serves as the school technology co-chair.
Castillo Dieguez taught in high school for nine years in Spain before being recruited as a Visiting Teacher from Spain. He applied to this program because he “always felt the need of having an experience abroad,” he said. “At the same time, getting the opportunity to work and live in the United States is very attractive for me and my family because my children can also learn English.”
Castillo Dieguez is a great example of how successfully Visiting Teachers from Spain can integrate in the everyday school life. Besides working as the social studies teacher in the Spanish immersion program, he was the assistant coach for the school’s basketball team in his first year and he took on the role of school webmaster last year.
“This is a great opportunity for me not only to learn and grown professionally in many areas,” said Castillo Dieguez, “but also to share my expertise and knowledge.”
For more information on the Visiting Teachers from Spain program, visit the World Languages webpage on the Kentucky Department of Education website, or contact Alfonso De Torres Núñez, KDE world languages consultant, at (502) 564-2106, ext. 4134, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information also is available on the Visiting Teachers from Spain website and in this video about the program.
Carlos Berrozpe Peralta is education adviser for the Embassy of Spain for Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio. Alfonso De Torres Núñez is the world languages consultant at the Kentucky Department of Education.