Area Spanish teachers had a life-changing adventure when they traveled to Peru last month as part of a learning abroad tour sponsored by Minot State University.
Kemerly Moorhouse, an MSU Spanish instructor and the education abroad coordinator for MSU, organized the trip to her native country. Three high school teachers from Bismarck High School and one from Minot High School traveled with Moorhouse. The Spanish teachers stayed with host families, some of them Moorhouse's relatives, and had a six-day workshop/training session at Instituto Pedagogico Nacional Monterrico. Moorhouse said cultural activiites included watching a play, visiting museums, visiting historical places in Lima and attending a folk dance show. Then last week, the group visited Cusco and the ruins of Machu Picchu.
Teachers who went on the trip included Megan Hibbs, from Minot, and Bismarck teachers Charlene Nemec, Regina Solemsaas and Kamara Yri.
"The (host) families were warm and welcoming," said Solemsaas in an e-mail. "She also worked with a number of professors at her alma mater, Instituto Pedagogico Nacional Monterrico - IPNM, in Lima, to coordinate a post-secondary program designed especially for us. We studied/reviewed how to teach Spanish as a second language, and we did it entirely in Spanish. It was an intense experience. I came back renewed and reenergized, and, most importantly, a better teacher!"
Moorhouse had led a group of students and community members from Minot to Peru last summer. This trip was the first that was intended for Spanish teachers. Because the teachers already spoke Spanish, they were able to have more in-depth conversations with students and professors at the college and with their host families. Three members of the group had spent some time abroad when they were studying Spanish, but one had never been out of the United States before. Moorhouse said high school Spanish teachers may get rusty in the language since they spend so much time speaking beginning or intermediate Spanish to their students. Students on this tour heard professors use a lot of academic Spanish. One member of the group took to writing down every unfamiliar phrase she heard in a notebook for use with her high school classes.
"Now they have more ideas for teaching in the classroom," said Moorhouse, since the students also experiencd ordinary life in Peru and the celebration of different events. While they were there, the college was holding an "Olympics," in which students from different departments competed in academic and athletic events. This is pretty typical of a Peruvian college, Moorhouse said. The college also celebrated the Day of the Sacred Heart, also an important day, and the North Dakotans saw students and teachers dancing with the nuns. Students also visited private and public high schools in Peru and noted differences. The public school students stay in one classroom while teachers move around. Teachers were surprised when students stood up to greet the teachers as they came into the room and remained standing until they were told they could sit down. Moorhouse said some of the North Dakotans thought the Peruvian teenagers were more polite than their American counterparts.
Moorhouse said she wants to continue the tour and make it a bi-annual event. Next summer she will take MSU students and community members to Peru. The following summer, in 2012, she will lead another tour for teachers. Because she has friends and family in Peru who are willing to work with her on setting up the tours, Moorhouse said she has some advantages. For instance, she knew the personalities of the teachers on this summer's tour and matched them up with host families she also knew so their temperaments matched. For instance, she arranged for one of the quieter teachers on the tour to stay with her aunt and uncle, who enjoy talking about the history of Peru. The teacher told Moorhouse she felt like she'd learned six years of history from talking with Moorhouse's wise aunt and uncle.
Moorhouse said she hopes more people will sign up for the tour as word gets out. This time she only had four participants but it can only grow. The cost of the tour for teachers was $3,300 apiece, not counting personal expenses. Next summer's tour for college students and community members will be $4,100, plus the cost of tuition for the class or for auditing the class.
Moorhouse said the teachers who went on the tour came back energized and motivated for a new year of teaching students Spanish.