Monday, February 9, 2009

Rio Teacher to be Student in Argentina

Turnaround is fair play, especially when the teacher becomes the student. This summer, Rio Salado adjunct faculty member Ken Schofield takes part in a Fulbright Administrator Exchange Program where he will learn the ins and outs of the education system in Argentina. And because he is not fluent in Spanish, the experience will truly be one of learning.

“I know basic classroom Spanish, so language will definitely be a barrier,” Schofield said, “but I hope to build some degree of understanding.” Schofield added he will be using the Rosetta Stone language learning program to brush up on his Spanish skills.

Schofield teaches classes at Rio Salado College in early childhood education and for the English as a Second Language program.

“Going to Argentina will provide me with an opportunity to see how things are for our students who come to the United States and don't speak the native language,” Schofield said. “I will have a chance to employ some of the English language learning techniques that I use in my courses to help me understand what I am hearing.”

He notes that those techniques include using body language, visuals, and speaking slowly to facilitate communication.
“Being the second language learner makes me more compassionate and understanding in what my English language learning students are going through and how it impacts what and how they learn,” Schofield said.

Last year, Schofield applied for Fulbright, a program that matches U.S. teachers and administrators with a counterpart in another country having similar responsibilities. The exchange can last a few weeks, a semester or a year, with a goal of “contributing to the mutual understanding between the United States and countries around the world.”

Schofield is also a principal in the Washington Elementary School District in Phoenix. His exchange counterpart, Inés Acerbi, a school principal from Rosario (Argentina’s third largest city), visited Arizona last October.

“Inés was overwhelmed with how much we had, and with our technology,” Schofield said. “Here we think we are lacking in school supplies, but how they fund schools in Argentina makes us look amazing.”

Schofield said the Argentine government pays to build their schools, but it is up to the individual principals to provide the books, desks and necessary supplies. He added that his elementary school raised over $1,000 for his counterpart’s school, a gift he will deliver this summer.

While in Argentina, Schofield will shadow Acerbi “to learn how she does teacher training as well as principal duties. I want to learn how things are done there, and incorporate that into what we do in the United States,” he said. “The best of both worlds.”

For those looking to improve their English skills, Rio Salado College offers free, non-credit classes for legal residents. The classes and programs (English for Speakers of other Languages and English Language Acquisition for Adults) help individuals focus on listening, reading, speaking and writing the English language. Students at all levels of English comprehension can take these classes. For more information visit