Oaxaca Education Administrator Visits Highlands University

Sean Weaver Photography


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Photo: Margaret McKinney/Highlands University

 Los Ninos Elementary School first grade teacher Josephine Herrera works with her students Emiliano Torres, Harriet Crofton and Antonio Porter. Herrera earned her masters degree in education from Highlands University and participated in the universitys Oaxaca Immersion Program. At right is Gladys Delia Ruiz Guzman, an Oaxaca education administrator who visited Las Vegas Sept. 30.

Oaxaca Education Administrator Visits Highlands University

 New Mexico Highlands University hosted an unofficial visit Sept. 30 from Gladys Delia Ruiz Guzman, an education administrator from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Since 2005 the university has offered an Oaxaca Immersion Program for its education students and local teachers. 

The Highlands University Oaxaca Immersion Program is conducted in collaboration with the Instituto Estatal de Educacion Publica de Oaxaca, the equivalent of the New Mexico Department of Public Education. Guzman is the universitys liaison for its Oaxaca Immersion Program.

It is valuable for Highlands University education students and working teachers to see other methods and ways of teaching,” Guzman said.” It is also helpful for them to see how Oaxaca teachers optimize their limited resources.

Five teachers from Los Ninos Elementary School in Las Vegas City Schools have participated in the university’s immersion program.

This Oaxaca Immersion Program is very beneficial for our students because the teachers who participate can convey the culture and language more effectively, said Floyd Chavez, principal of Los Ninos, an immersion school. The Oaxaca program makes our young students more global.

Education professor Loretta Salazar is one of three Highlands University professors who have travelled with their students for the two-week immersion program in Oaxaca.

Our Oaxaca Immersion Program is an authentic immersion program in every sense of the word because everything is in Spanish, Salazar said. The program participants see and experience language in all aspects, including social, linguistic and political. They also experience formal Spanish in academic settings as well as everyday informal Spanish in places like markets and restaurants.

The other two Highlands+ professors who have participated in this immersion program since its inception are education professor Merryl Kravitz and language professor Sara Harris.

Kravitz said: The Oaxaca Immersion Program is an opportunity for our education students and the teachers to see and use Spanish in action 24/7. Their fluency is increased, and they also get to see how language is used in the classroom.

Josephine Herrera participated in the universitys Oaxaca Immersion Program and has taught for 10 years, including seven years at Los Ninos Elementary School. She completed both her bachelor+s degree in bilingual education and her masters degree in curriculum and instruction from the Highlands University School of Education.

I was inspired by the teachers I observed in Oaxaca to come back and do my best to teach my students bilingual education, Herrera said. For me, its important to make sure my students appreciate and value themselves, and their ability to be bilingual. I tell them your education is something no one can take away from you. It empowers you to be the kind of person you want to be.

Herrera said she was impressed with the way teachers in Oaxaca make the most of limited resources and teaching materials, not wasting the smallest scrap of paper. Salazar said that each year the Highlands University students who participate in the immersion program donate classroom books and school supplies for students in the Oaxaca schools.

“If anyone has an opportunity to go to Oaxaca through the immersion program, I would strongly encourage and recommend it,” Herrera said. It was an awesome experience.

Already four of Herrera’s fellow teachers at Los Ninos Elementary School have participated in the Oaxaca Immersion Program, including fourth grade teacher Viola Allemand, Title I teacher Julia Fuchs, fifth grade teacher Gary Sena, and kindergarten teacher Vita Velasquez.

Salazar said that teachers from West Las Vegas School District and other northern New Mexico school districts have also participated in the immersion program along with the Highlands University education students. Both graduate and undergraduate credits are available through the program.

The next New Mexico Highlands University Oaxaca Immersion Program is scheduled for June 2010.