Fulbright scholar envisions connection with Adams State and Guatemala
Mutual support and resources weave Adams State College, and the local community, to the land and people of Guatemala.
Adams State Professor of Education Dr. Joel Judd recently returned from Guatemala where he served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist for the University of the Valley of Guatemala.
According to the Council for International Exchange of Scholars Web site Fulbright Scholars, the Fulbright Senior Specialist Program is designed to provide short-term academic opportunities for U.S. faculty and professionals.
Judd said the University of the Valley of Guatemala had a special project they needed developed and asked him to apply through the Fulbright program. "I applied and because of my previous contact with the university and school and area of expertise it was a good match."
Judd served as a Specialist during the summer and fall of 2008. For three weeks in the summer and three in the fall, Judd wrote basic curriculum for faculty who prepare English teachers in the public schools, and outlined a radio program designed to broadcast English to the local schools and region.
"The radio program is not just for school teachers," Judd said. "It will broadcast English language programming to the whole southwest coast area."
"The whole experience was wonderful. The people I met are very friendly and open," Judd said. "They welcomed me into their homes." In fact, a Guatemalan teacher hosted Judd in her home during his summer stay. In the fall, Judd had the opportunity to become acquainted with several other regional initiatives involving Guatemalan educators, including hearing Jimmy Webb, the founder of Wikipedia, and speaking with the director of the Centers of Excellence in Teacher Training (CETT).
The CETT projects in Latin America have been supported through USAid, and help develop public school teacher capacity. The CETT Director was interested in the possibility of teacher exchanges between the US and Guatemala. "Guatemalan teachers are generally just high school, not college, graduates," Judd explained. "It would be an opportunity to train their teachers through team-teaching with college-graduate teachers in the classroom." They also discussed the possibility of using distance learning classrooms here and in Guatemala to provide teacher in-service.
Adams State College and the University of the Valley of Guatemala have already collaborated on teacher training and student to student connections. Teachers from Colorado travelled to Guatemala in the summers of 2006 and 2007, meeting with local school teachers and administrators, and provided teaching workshops for the teachers.
In addition to teacher training, there is a wide range of opportunities for Adams State professors and students to work with a Guatemalan university. "Everything from counselor education, psychology, music, anthropology, art, and more, is available for our professors to take advantage of in Guatemala," Judd said. "Students could have a summer internship there, or go work with teachers in their classrooms. Faculty can conduct field studies, teach courses, or partner with Guatemalan faculty on projects. Our partnership has the potential to be as rich as we want it to be."
Judd said it can be tempting to become insulated within one's own institution, but international work offers faculty one way to get out of their comfort zone. "It is nice to literally get out in the world once in awhile. Teachers all over the world experience similar challenges. It is not all about preparing for the next test. We entered the teaching profession because we care for other people. Teachers want their students to reach their potential. That is much harder to accomplish in some places."
Link with local Guatemalan community
All of this work has stemmed from the presence of a Guatemalan community in Alamosa. The US Census estimated there were 875,000 Guatemalans living in the US in 2006. The income these immigrants remitted to their families accounted for about 12 percent of their country's Gross Domestic Product in 2007, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America. "Guatemala's working-class economics depends on money sent back from relatives living and working in the US," Judd said.
Here in the valley, Judd, together with Dr. Sheryl Ludwig, assistant professor of teacher education, and Alamosa High School science teacher Barb Kruse, have helped organize a club for Guatemalan high school students. "The Guatemalans refer to themselves as Chapines, and that is the name of the club. It is an opportunity for the students to gather and educate their community about their culture." Kruse is the faculty sponsor.
Last fall Judd and Ludwig arranged a teleconference between an elementary school in Guatemala and Evans Elementary School. Elementary students from Evans came to Adams State distance learning classroom to listen and learn from their peers in Guatemala. This spring, it will be Evans' students turn to reciprocate and present to the students in Guatemala.
One of Judd's memorable experiences during his visit included travel to Santa Eulalia, the town where most of Alamosa's immigrants originated. He said although the city was only about 200 miles away, the trip took ten hours. "It was so foggy in parts, you could not see anything." Road conditions during the rainy season made travel difficult. "I was told there have been more than a few ribbon cuttings for the last section of the mountain road. They repave it but as soon as a mud slide hits, the road is gone again." Judd said he was shown potential for ecotourism and agricultural development for local students. "The university is trying to reach out to rural communities by providing training to expand the local economy." He and Ludwig have discussed the possibility of a sister-city relationship between Alamosa and Santa Eulalia.
Judd said many college students in Guatemala get up while it's still dark, ride a bus for four or five hours to the nearest extension campus, study all day and the ride the bus back home. "They see education as a way out and a way up."
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By Linda Relyea