By Raena Doty
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
FSU has partnered with an organization called ChileMass for four years now, bringing Chilean educators to the University.
On Feb. 7, the people of FSU gave a warm welcome to the participants in the program this year in the Center for Inclusive Excellence.
The reception brought together the foreign educators, the team who made this program possible, and staff from FSU. The event started with snacks and mingling before shifting gears into introductions to the group.
“It’s such a powerful thing to be able to step out of your environment and be able to look back at your own culture and see it with different eyes. And it’s very powerful to visit another culture and view your own culture,” Rebecca Hawk, director of Academic English Language Programs said.
“This is what makes [ChileMass] so wonderful and we are so privileged to be a part of it. I am struck by how many people at Framingham State in this little spot in the world have ties to Chile,” she continued.
President Nancy Niemi attended the reception and said words of welcome to the visiting educators.
“I’m very, very proud to be the leader of an institution that is so committed to student-centered learning and committed to giving world-class education and to really working on the paradigm of education - not just as we do it but as it could be,” she said.
“I also am hopeful in this program we can learn from each other interculturally, as we’ve been talking about. We all have things to learn, to get out of our own backyards, where we should be continuing to take from each other and grow each other,” Niemi added.
She connected the program to her own days when she worked as a teacher to middle school-aged students. “I can tell you from a disciplinary standpoint, my whole life I’ve been thinking about how we help grow teachers and how teachers learn from each other and bring out the best practices in each other, so from that, my heart really belongs to the programs just like this,” she said.
Several classes and other opportunities were advertised for the Chilean educators to attend, including a seminar about the Spanish Civil War with Joanne Britland, a professor of Spanish; a class about the social impacts of sports with Ira Silver, a sociology professor; and a sheltered English immersion class with Anne Roberti, director of Community Education and Lifelong Learning.
Fernanda Soza, executive director of ChileMass, spoke at the reception as well.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity to have this collaboration with Framingham State University, a university that has such a long history in education,” she said. “It is our fourth year at Framingham that we have been working on this, our fourth cohort of teachers down here, and we hope to continue to grow this program.”
Soza said, “We work with a lot of universities around the area, but not only universities. We also work with corporations, with different centers, with startups a lot. So we really are in the innovation ecosystem. That’s our main goal - to connect innovation and bring innovation to Chile, and also from Chile to the U.S.”
She said the educators who come to Massachusetts in this program not only benefit from the array of classes FSU offers over English and pedagogy, but also ChileMass’s own partnership with Framingham Public schools.
“[The educators] go to the public schools and learn really, very hands-on … what the teachers are doing inside our classes,” Soza said.
Currently, ChileMass does not facilitate any travel for educators from Massachusetts to go to Chile, but they hope to expand to that in the future.
“The second part of this program is we want to have teachers from Massachusetts going back down to Chile to improve their Spanish skills,” she said.
Hawk opened the floor for the educators from Chile to introduce themselves and talk about why they came to Massachusetts.
The educators ranged from students who had not yet graduated from their universities to teachers who were looking to gain more hands-on experience they could take back to their own classrooms.
While all of them have different motivations for coming to Massachusetts, many highlighted the importance of gaining new experience.
Britland reflected on her own experiences traveling abroad.
She said, “I know from experience - I lived many years in Spain, first as a student and then working, and also in Brazil - and so I know the joys and how enriching it is to be in a different country, and also that it helps to know people and make friends and so I would be really happy to help facilitate that.”
Kamila Poveda, one of the educators from Chile, said, “This is my first time in the United States and going out of my country, so as an English teacher I think it is really important to experience what it feels like to live in an English-speaking country - for us to learn about the culture and what are some differences here and there.”
She added, “Today was our first day at school, and just with that, we already learned a lot, so I hope to keep learning and experiencing everything.”
Hawk’s role as director of Academic English Language Programs means she heads up programs where non-native and international English speakers can learn English in more depth, ranging from new speakers learning the very basics of the language to high-level speakers looking to develop skills for later on in life.
Four years ago, Framingham State was chosen over three other schools which submitted proposals.
Hawk said, “Ours was accepted because we targeted what their specific needs would be with language and graduate education. And then we just adapted the program to what they needed to advance,” the mission of ChileMass.
“I think that the participants in the program learn new ways of doing things. And I know that Massachusetts is a hub of educational skills - we understand how to do some things that help them improve themselves. But fundamentally, what both sides get is a change in perspective and to be able to look and analyze the programs according to what another group needs or what they do in another country and how we can adopt that,” Hawk said.
“I hope that they see, ‘Here’s some things that are better, maybe some things that aren’t so good, but here are things that are better than we do and how can we make those changes?’” she added. “It’s a really important part of this that the teachers become students. So they experience learning English, learning language, under us.”