From peaceful, whitewashed villages where time stands still to ornate mosques and palaces that reawaken the majesty of the Moorish past, my discoveries in Spain and Portugal were framed by a coast and country side of exquisite beauty. On the journey that led me through modern cities and medieval towns filled with architectural wonders, I encountered a welcoming people who are devoted to their proud heritage and eager to share the joys of a vibrant culture.

Since I learned of the Council Scholar Program, I researched many travel programs and destinations in my excitement to continue growing in the Spanish language and learning of new places and cultures. I finally pinpointed my desire to explore more of the Iberian Peninsula. Through this trip with Grand Circle Travel, I spent multiple days exploring regions of Spain, listening to various accents and seeing not only the Spanish influence on art and architecture, but that of the Romans and Moors as well. I was eager to encounter both the new and vibrant areas as well as the older more hidden treasures Spain has to offer. I also briefly visited Lisbon, Portugal a country I have only studied but never seen.

As in all my travels, I am constantly reminded of my desire to learn and enhance my cultural knowledge. I am drawn to opportunities to study and travel abroad not only so that I can become more knowledgeable, but so that I can take my experiences back into my classroom. Thank you to Wells Fargo, Carolinas HealthCare System and UNC Charlotte for your support of this amazing program for educators. By participating in this particular program, I am able to teach my students about diversity and inclusion; therefore encouraging them to become open-minded thinkers able to explore, accept, and foster racial and cultural differences. As open-minded individuals, my students can make important contributions to our multicultural society that positively impact our society’s changing cultural demographics.

Marcel Proust the French novelist observed that “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” He realized that by working with other people we learn about their cultures and become able to explore new ideas and prospects. Options that would not have occurred to us before stand out as obvious if we understand how other people experience the world. This is why I believe it is so important for me as a classroom teacher to have a deeper global awareness and understanding of other cultures.

Having had this experience, I have gained authentic materials that I can use to introduce and present ideas and topics that provide my students with a better cultural understanding of the target language. Furthermore, a healthy balance of language activities that improve communicative skills and that focus on the development of cultural understanding is especially important when integrating language and culture. By socializing and visiting with Spaniards, I encountered new accents and new vocabulary that I can use to enhance the curriculum at any level of instruction. The variety of accents and vocabulary are concepts that make Spanish (or any language) a living language and help stimulate curiosity in my students and a desire to explore and interact with the world.

At the school and district level I want to encourage my colleagues to take advantage of the Council Scholar Program. With limited resources and a desire to be life-long learners, it is programs like this that allow teachers to experience the world outside of their classrooms and bring the world back to their students. Not only will I share pictures and realia (objects or activities used to relate classroom teaching to the real life especially of peoples studied) that teachers can use in their classes, but I will spark a desire in the staff to travel and collect their own stories and authentic materials. In addition, with the use of the new curriculum, and the process of leaving behind the textbook, we are in desperate need of authentic materials for instruction. Since the last time that I traveled abroad, our curriculum has changed. On this trip, keeping in mind the Unit topics for Spanish, I paid special attention to those concepts in my travels and sought out materials that can be used and manipulated for classroom instruction as well as hands-on activities.

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Pictures taken on my trip: Starting in the top left – Hilltop view of Ronda, Plaza de los leones in Granda, La Mezquita in Cordoba, and Churros and Chocolate in Madrid.

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