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Fulbright teacher visits Vail Mountain School

Daily Staff Writer
Special to the Daily
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VAIL – Vail Mountain School students last month learned from a teacher from Uruguay. Vail Mountain School was chosen by the U.S. State Department to host Estella Rodriguez, a sixth grade teacher and mother of three from Tacuarembo, Uruguay, who is a participant in the Fulbright Teacher and Administrator Exchange Special Initiative program. The purpose of her stay is to develop an understanding of how American schools operate compared to schools in her native country, share cultural experiences, teach students and faculty about life in Uruguay and South America, and observe administrative activities. She will also Berry Creek Middle School and Edwards Elementary School. In her two-week stay at Vail Mountain School, Rodriguez’s schedule took her several classes. Along with kindergarten teacher, Amy Schroeder, Rodriguez read a bi-lingual book to the students prompting them to volunteer vocabulary words to describe pictures and maps. In middle school art class, with no knowledge of the Spanish language, the art teacher, Michelle Gurnee, taught Rodriguez printmaking. In the upper school, Rodriguez worked one-on-one and in small groups with students to help them develop their Spanish speaking skills by conversing solely in Spanish. The opportunity to have “a native speaker is a boost for teachers and students in the classroom,” said Spanish teacher Cynthia Blancke. “A native speaker in class adds a different perspective to what is being taught and teachers are able to integrate different activities into the lesson.” “The faculty and students have benefited tremendously,” added lower school Spanish teacher Betsy Welch. Although Rodriguez only speaks Spanish, said Blancke, “She has ventured into English classrooms and it has been a success – somehow there is communication going on. The experience has been terrific for the students.”Different from her teaching experiences in Uruguay, Rodriguez said, “Students are asked to share their thinking, their reflection. The questions ‘What do you think?’ and ‘Why do you think this?’ are promoted at VMS.” Rodriguez’s work with Vail Mountain School will continue after she returns home. Sixth grade Spanish teacher, Steve Gordon, and Rodriguez have decided to have their classes write books on local flora and fauna. The two classes will then exchange the books by mail later this year. Vail, Colorado


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