College starts new student teacher exchange program with Spain

Spanish Students

(Left to right:) University of Seville students Guillermo Dominguez Romero, Pedro Martinez Macias, Andrea Alejo, Alejandro Maldonado Navarro. Photo by Michael Clements/UNT

A new international student teacher exchange offered through the University of North Texas' College of Education in collaboration with the University of Seville in Spain aims to help students learn about other cultures – while giving the future teachers real-life experience in the classroom.

"The international student teacher exchange with the University of Seville is the college's first effort to provide this opportunity for student teachers," said Dr. Jerry Thomas, dean of UNT's College of Education. "We hope to continue this program annually with the University of Seville and develop additional opportunities with universities in other countries. Having an international experience is often life-changing for students, and we hope our programs will provide that opportunity."

Four students from the University of Seville in Spain arrived in Denton Feb. 9 and are serving as student teachers in three schools in the Denton school district until March 9. Also as part of the exchange program, four UNT students will teach primary school and English using English as a Second Language strategies March 30 through May 3 in Seville, Spain.

"This provides our high school students with a live example of how becoming proficient in a second language will enable them to take advantage of international opportunities in their later careers," said Lisbeth Dixon-Krauss, associate dean for teacher education in UNT's College of Education. "For our English language learners, the student teachers from Spain provide an example of teachers who were once English language learners themselves. For all of our students and our teachers in the schools, this exchange provides an opportunity to interact with teachers who grew up and were educated in another culture beyond the U.S."

Guillermo Dominguez and Alejandro Maldonado are student teachers at Guyer High School in Denton, and Pedro Martinez is a student teacher at Denton High School. Andrea Alejo is teaching second grade at Hawk Elementary School.

While Alejo is learning about a new culture, her students are, too. They're asking questions about everything from how to make paella to how she gets around her Seville neighborhood on foot rather than by car, she said.

"It's been so amazing," said Alejo, a senior at the University of Seville. "The kids are having fun and they are learning about different cultures and geography. It's a good experience for them."

Caroline Harris, a senior studying early childhood education in UNT's College of Education, is a student teacher in Timberline Elementary School in Grapevine and will travel to Spain this semester for the exchange program.

"Studying abroad has been something I wanted to do my entire college career," Harris said. "I am just really interested in seeing the culture and from an educational standpoint comparing and contrasting different instructional strategies and classroom management techniques."