By Alfonso De Torres Núñez
Visiting Teachers from Spain is one of two international programs developed by the Kentucky Department of Education with education authorities from another country to provide world language services to students and school districts in the Commonwealth.
Visiting Teachers from Spain 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 international teachers have a minimum of three years’ experience in bilingual or multicultural education and most have master’s degrees. All are rigorously pre-screened, are open to new methodologies and have a strong interest in international education.
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 can help address critical staffing needs that otherwise would go unmet. Often, districts and schools find it difficult to find qualified, Spanish-speaking teachers to fill immersion and Spanish as a world language positions. By utilizing the Visiting Teachers from Spain program, the visiting Spanish teachers and the communities, staff and students they serve all stand to benefit greatly from the experience.
Michael Godbey, principal at Lincoln County High School, applied to the Visiting Teachers program due to a shortage of certified Spanish Teachers.
“It has been difficult for us to attract certified world language teachers and (we) have had a revolving door of teachers since I’ve been principal at Lincoln County High School,” he said. “In years past we’ve had to resort to online language instruction for students, which did not provide the best experience.”
Over the past two years, Godbey said he has seen the benefit of having a certified teacher who is native speaker of the language.
“The best takeaway of the Visiting Teacher program for students are quality instruction provided by a native speaker that includes not only language instruction, but exposure to true Spanish culture,” he said. “This provides a unique perspective for our students. Mr. Del Río García provides engaging classroom instruction that immerses students in the language and require students to engage in conversation with each other and the teacher.
“The engagement our faculty and staff have with this teacher and his culture is very positive. Our staff have embraced the visiting teachers and learned a great deal from their experience and background.”
Pilar Lara Burgos, the new education adviser from the Embassy of Spain for the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, said the program becomes an incredible experience for all people involved.
“Spanish and American teachers have the unique opportunity to exchange methodologies and knowledge from different education systems,” Lara Burgos said. “They grow personally and professionally. And finally, administrators benefit from the expertise and experience of international teachers and excellent language models. The Visiting Teachers from Spain program connects communities from the U.S. and Spain, fostering cultural acceptance and diversity.”
The program has run in Kentucky since 2000 thanks to the strategic partnership between the Kentucky Department of Education and the Ministry of Education of Spain, and has brought more than 200 teachers into Kentucky schools. There are currently more than 1,800 visiting teachers from Spain working in the country, said Lara Burgos, with 20 of them in Kentucky.
“Fayette school district hires most of them, but there are also some in Boone, Lincoln, Grant, Pineville and Barbourville,” she said. “They have all gone through a long and thorough selection process, which guarantees they are all experienced and highly qualified teachers. Once they are preselected by the Spanish government, they are interviewed by the Kentucky Department of Education in Madrid, and later by school principals and administrators via video conference. Finally, the teachers are hired with the same status and working conditions as those of local teachers after receiving a teaching license granted by the state to international teachers.
“As an education adviser, I encourage you and your district to participate in this amazing experience. If you are interested, you only have to let your district know or get in touch with the World Languages Department of the Kentucky Department of Education. Do not be discouraged by the apparent complexity of the international hiring process. After more than 40 years of experience and collaboration with American education authorities, we have made the process really straightforward.”
Meet a Visiting Teacher from Spain
José David Del Río García comes to Kentucky from the region of Murcia, Spain. He moved to Kentucky with his wife and his three children.
Del Río García has been the Spanish teacher at Lincoln County High School since 2017, a place that he said feels like home.
“The teaching atmosphere in my school is incredible. Teachers and administrators lead the school in a very student-oriented way,” he said. “Also, the World Languages Department has inspired me on how to approach teaching more efficiently and from a different perspective. I would have never thought the environment in a place away from the city would offer me so many different opportunities to come forward in my profession!”
Del Río García said having native teachers in a school can provide access to a variety of cultural experiences that these teachers have accumulated throughout their lives in their home country.
“Most of us (native teachers) have been going through the process of learning a foreign language ourselves,” he said. “We know from experience what kind of challenges our students are going to face when they start learning a foreign language.
“The best take-away for the students is that in their preparation to become global citizens, they are doing so with the guidance of an expert of the language and the culture in which they are interested.”
MORE INFO …
For more information on the KDE Visiting International Teacher 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