TRINIDAD teachers Theresa Vieruel and Laura Welch are making the United States their new classroom. Both are part of a cultural exchange programme, Participate, that recruits teachers to work in US Schools for three to five years. Vieruel and Welch are two of of 10,000-plus teachers from 84 countries who have participated in the programme which has been operating for past 31 years. For the first time, Participate has five teachers from TT.
Vieruel, a 57-year-old teacher from Marabella, started her new job in the US as a kindergarten teacher at Elon Elementary School in North Carolina. She is gaining valuable experience and professional development by teaching in US classrooms, which she hopes to share with her Trinidad counterparts when she returns after her stint is finished. “It allows you to experience a different culture and teaching style. There is so much to learn which would enhance your own teaching on your return home,” said Vieruel in a media release.
One difference she notes, is the content in the school syllabus. “In Trinidad the syllabus is much more compact, and a lot of content has to be fit into one day, whereas in the US the content is lighter so there is more time to spend ensuring that the concepts are grasped by the children.” “The most enriching experience for me has been sitting with students and trying to satisfy their curiosity and interest about my home country which allowed me to share who we are as a people,” Vieruel said.
Welch, who is 25 years old, is originally from West Trinidad. She teaches at Eastlawn Elementary School, also in North Carolina. As a full-time kindergarten teacher, she teaches all core subjects which include reading, math, literacy and science. So far, she has had great experiences teaching in the US.
“The school that I work at has amazing outdoors spaces where my class and I often go to explore, learn and engage with nature in ways that they may not get a chance to in their daily lives. In fact, two teachers worked together to obtain a creativity grant for our school. The grant was used to create a garden area with the objective of creating a space for students to be exposed to experiences that would assist them in making healthier food choices and develop both social and life skills by working together to nurture the plants,” she said.
The garden was also a unique learning session for Welch’s class. “Within the first nine weeks of school my students creatively learnt their math skills by sorting and counting seeds as well as used inch cubes to measure the planting areas for their seeds,” she said.
In addition to making sure her charges are well-rounded students, Welch hopes to build a closer relationship with them, as she did with students in TT. “Trinidad and Tobago is a small country and as such many teachers often have a close relationship with their students’ families. Therefore, allowing us to be more aware of our students’ home environments and the challenges they face in their personal lives,” she said. Professionally, Laura says she is learning an entirely new skill set as it relates to the curriculum which she hopes to implement when she returns to TT.
Participate’s Teacher Recruitment Manager Ronald Ramírez said teaching abroad offers great insight. “It is a valuable learning experience for the Trinidad teachers, their students and colleagues. Teachers have the opportunity to integrate into new communities and schools, where they will develop both professionally and personally,” he said.
There are opportunities to teach primary school, maths, science, and world languages (including English as a Second Language). All positions are full-time and salaried, with competitive health benefits and professional development opportunities. As an additional benefit, in case the teacher recruited has a family, it is possible for the members to travel to United States with all migratory arrangements accomplished and supported by the program to obtain the visa. Participants must agree, however, to complete a minimum of two years on the programme to ensure continuity and stability for learners at participating schools in the United States.
Participate partners with schools in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. All three states are in the Southeast USA. Placements are in rural, suburban, or urban settings. Schools are carefully evaluated for suitability and need.
Primary schools teachers who are interested in teaching in the US and want more info: go.participate.com/trinidadandtobago