Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 22, 2008
Spanish teachers blend language, faith
School district goes abroad to find instructors
By RAMON GONZALEZ
Spaniard Eva Helguera, 34, who taught Spanish in the Edmonton public school system for the past three years, began teaching in Grandin’s Spanish bilingual program Sept. 2. The school has 427 students and almost half are native Spanish speakers. The school also offers French.
John Paul I principal Genevieve Kelemen hired Soler because she has a good command of the English language and can teach in both languages. She even picked up the new teacher at the airport.
Soler has taught in Madrid and Galicia for several years and learned English by spending her summer holidays in England. She was teaching at a Jesuit school in Galicia when she learned about the Edmonton opportunity.
The school principal, a Jesuit, is interested in having bilingual staff and encouraged Soler to apply.
“He told me this could be a good opportunity for me to improve my English and my (teaching) skills,” she said. “They plan to use me in the future as a bilingual teacher.”
At John Paul I, Soler teaches half the day in Spanish and the other half in English.
“I love it, but it’s different,” she said, noting that in Spain she used to teach English to non-English speakers. “It’s not the same to teach students who don’t understand you than to teach students who do understand you and realize that you make mistakes grammatically and in vocabulary.”
Kelemen is happy to have Soler as part of her staff.
“Just going in and listening to her speaking to the students and speaking to the parents around — she is just bringing so many interesting aspects of the Spanish culture to our school,” she said. “We are looking forward to having her share for the rest of the year all the different things that they do in Spain.”
John Paul I has five Spanish-speaking teachers and one aide in its academy. Grandin School has 10 Spanish-speaking teachers.
Eva Helguera is a traveller. She left Spain in 1996 to complete a doctorate in Hebrew at UCLA and then continued her studies in Israel. She taught Spanish bilingual in Chicago before the Edmonton Public Schools hired her in 2005.
When she learned the Catholic system was looking for Spanish teachers she decided to change ships. She is happy she did. “Grandin School has opened its arms to me and has made sure that I feel I’m part of the community.”
Helguera currently teaches Grade 5 at Grandin. And she doesn’t just teach Spanish but all the subject areas, including French, mathematics, English language arts, social studies, sciences. Like Soler, she teaches half of the day in Spanish, the other half in English.
Principal Reny Clericuzio is happy to have Helguera on staff. “We at Grandin are very happy to have a teacher from Spain; we believe that it enhances the learning for our children,” he said. “Eva brings not only that excellent role model of language but she also brings the faith component.”
Helguera believes she is making an important contribution as well. “I think I bring a different perspective from the Spanish world because I come from Spain and not a South American country, “she said. “Probably I have a more traditional approach to teaching and learning.”
What about faith development?
“I believe in the integration of faith and religion into everything in the classroom,” Helguera added. “I believe in the integration of all subjects and helping the students to grow up as human beings not only as students.”
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