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Visiting teacher brings native understanding

Julie Imada-Howard

Fabregat, a visiting teacher from Santiago, Chile, will be teaching Second Language Acquisition at Eagle Valley Middle School for the next three years, as part of the Eagle County School District’s visiting international faculty program. As a native Spanish speaker, her job is to help students in the Second Language Acquisition, or SLA, program become fluent in English.

Eagle Valley Middle School principal Jerry Santoro said the challenge of a successful SLA program is the ability of the teacher to teach “academic language” including grammar, subject-specific vocabulary, as well as “survival language” skills, including conversational English. What made Fabregat stand out was her ability to do just that.

“She seemed to understand the culture behind our SLA program,” Santoro said. “Parents can identify with her.”



Fabregat said to be successful, her students also have to learn the culture behind the English language. “It’s not just the basics, it’s a different attitude and it applies to all levels,” she said. “Knowledge and behavior are inter-linked.”

For example, Fabregat may have the students compare how shopping for groceries in the U.S. differs from buying food in the students’ home countries, and learning to identify appropriate language and behavior for different circumstances. The fact that Fabregat is a native Spanish speaker has also helped establish good relationships with her students. She said her students have been well-disciplined and eager to do the work requested of them.



Her 20-plus years of teaching has also helped her adjust to the education system in this country. In Chile, she teaches at a German school and all students are required to become fluent in Spanish, English and German. She said in American schools, usually only one foreign language is taught and not all students are required to learn a different language.

Another difference is the class schedule. In Chile, classes begin at 7:45 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Teachers and students eat breakfast together and lunch is later in the day.Students also take 10-minute breaks for every 90 minutes of class.

“Here we have A and B days. On A days, I teach English tutorial only and at a set time. On B days, I am with (students) in physical education class to help them understand what is expected of them. In Chile, there is a different subject every day, very much like college,” explained Fabregat.



Fabregat has also had to adjust to a new life in America. Her grown children, Andres and Paola, are studying at the University of Chile, and supported her decision to come work in the U.S.

“I know they are starting their lives and this is a new experience for me,’ said Fabregat. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Fabregat added that the most difficult part of her journey so far is being separated from her children and from her mother, Marta.

Her lifestyle outside of school is also different. Having been in Eagle for just a month and a half, Fabregat has focused on getting settled in her new home. She has begun attending services at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Eagle and hopes that as time passes, she’ll begin to make more friends and get involved in the community outside of school.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.


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