Student teaches at Costa Rican international school
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Before departing for Central America, liberal studies alumna and credential student Sarah Phillips (’13) had never been outside of the U.S. for longer than two weeks. However, Phillips committed to a semester of teaching for an English-speaking international school in Costa Rica this spring.
The opportunity to student-teach in Costa Rica is offered within Westmont’s five-year teaching credential program. Among many other opportunities, the program allows students to practice and hone their Spanish language skills.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Phillips said. Her Westmont coursework of Spanish I and II and her three-time experience serving with Potter’s Clay in Mexico laid a linguistic foundation for Phillips, but her time in Costa Rica has challenged the breadth of her Spanish. “It hasn’t been easy,” said Phillips. “But I am learning and becoming more bold with my speaking.”
The Costa Rica program has also challenged Phillips’ pedagogic intentions. Phillips admitted that teaching at the international school “has been difficult at times,” and has made her hesitant about pursuing a future in teaching.
“It has made me wonder if I am passionate enough about it to seriously pursue it,” said Phillips. But despite these doubts, Phillips has also learned to strengthen her commitments. “Although teaching is a difficult and time-consuming vocation, those factors shouldn't sway me from teaching,” she said. “Rather, I should take it on as a challenge and an opportunity to trust the Lord more fully, and to lean on Him to help me through.”
Phillips appreciates the cultural differences that she has seen during her time in Costa Rica, among them the greater emphasis on community, family and loquaciousness in the home and classroom.
“Everyone is so chatty!” laughed Phillips. “It’s a great characteristic because it lends for amazing classroom discussions, and it’s not hard to find students willing to participate or offer thoughts, answers, suggestions and stories.” But the especially talkative third graders of her classroom have also presented a challenge to Phillips as she brainstorms positive didactic methods to refocus their attention on the subject matter.
According to Phillips, Westmont’s teaching credential program prepared her as much as possible for her experience in Costa Rica. “I feel confident in teaching because of what I have been taught,” said Phillips. In preparation, Phillips met with alumni of the program, heard testimonies of previous student-teachers in Costa Rica and attended briefings about cultural differences that she might experience there. “I felt as prepared as I could be,” said Phillips. “I knew I’d have to learn everything else by just jumping in, and I am glad that I did.”
Phillips urges other liberal studies majors to learn and teach outside of the U.S. as well. “Go abroad if you can!” she advised. “It has grown and stretched me and caused me to think about who I am in ways I hadn't thought possible.”