Education professors and students from the National University of Costa Rica (NUCR) spent three weeks at the Baylor School of Education (SOE) this summer, under the guidance of senior lecturer Rick Strot. For nearly fifteen years, Strot has led Baylor SOE students to Costa Rica to study methods of teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) and complete service projects.
“As a result of the Baylor in Costa Rica program, this group has taken an initiative to visit us for the first time, thanks to a year of hard work with visas, passports, and all the small details that brought them here,” Strot said. “I’m so happy they made the trip to visit our programs, tour our professional development schools, see this beautiful campus, and experience the arrangments we have for our students.”
The NUCR visitors also shared their own experiences working with migrant and impoverished communities in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua with Baylor students and professors. For years NUCR professors and students have traveled to Costa Rican communities such as San Gerardo, Punta Cortés, Cachito, Isla Chica, Talamanca, and La Trocha where people struggle to receive a quality education, job opportunities, healthcare, or government assistance in any form.
When researching the communities, NUCR education professor Isabel Badilla Zamora takes her social pedagogy students on three-day excursions as teaching extensions in rural areas that contrast the urban teaching environments the students are familiar in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.
“Part of the social education intention is organizing activities to improve the lives of the people in those areas, and we do this by being, sharing, and of course drinking coffee with these people to create relationships,” Zamora said. “Before going, we design teaching strategies to work on English with the kids, and for some of those children, it is the first time hearing the language.”
The NUCR representatives take sacks of clothes, food, games, books, and toys donated by the university and sponsors. During each trip, they conduct English language introductions in small groups with the local children and socialize with the community.
NUCR education student Isaac Sandoval has served on the trips since 2017 and was in Waco for the Baylor extension.
“We have the standard teaching experience in the Central Valley in an urban environment and then we experience these rural schools and communities that show us the other face of the coin that is Costa Rican public education,” Sandoval said. “In Costa Rica, we do not know where we will end up teaching, and the trips show us the possibilities and differences.”
Now added to their range of education extensions is Waco, Texas. While touring Waco, the group observed the methodology of Freedom Schools, a literacy enrichment program, and Math for Early Learners Academy (MELA), a mathematics intervention program. SOE faculty hosted seminars concerning regional history, issues in education, and teaching English as a second language. On weekends, the group traveled to Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas to see notable Texas landmarks such as the state capitol and the Alamo. Their trip was highlighted by their first Fourth of July celebration on the banks of the Brazos River.
NUCR education students Jabib Haghiran and Ricardo Vargas found the extension in Waco to be one of their most valued life experiences.
“There are so many materials and resources offered here,” Haghiran said. “We can bring, take, and combine American and Baylor teaching methods and culture with our own. Being here provides new ideas and feedback. We will leave with different perspectives and energy that does not apply only to urban or rural students, but will help us work with all students learning a second language.”
—By Cameron Bocanegra
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