Spirit recently spoke with Lisneidy, a Venezuelan teacher currently instructing a Spanish bilingual classroom in Dallas, Texas as part of Spirit’s BridgeUSA Teacher Program in the United States. Lisneidy told us about her experience in the U.S. so far, as well as about what it’s like to live in Dallas, Texas as an exchange teacher.
Tell us about your experience as a Spanish Bilingual Exchange Teacher in the U.S. so far.
My experience here in Texas has been a great experience. I can describe it as wonderful. This is the first time I’ve come to the United States, so there’s been a lot of new things. It’s been such a great experience at school. And here in the city, there are a lot of things to do and a lot of beautiful places, so it’s been a great experience so far.
Describe your Host School and the campus. How is it different than your school in Venezuela?
The Host School is a very organized place. The principal, the assistant principals, the teachers–all of them are really nice people. They have been so considerate to me, considering that I was delayed arriving to school.
They have taught me everything. Every time I need help, they are willing to show me how to do this, how to do that. Very friendly! And my co-teachers have been such a great help for me. I really like my Host School.
Of course, both countries have different educational systems, but what I can tell you is that in both places prevails the passion of the teachers. All the staff at school works so hard for the students to have a great experience at school, a safe place for them, and of course the best possible education for them.
What is it like teaching in a Spanish Bilingual classroom?
I can tell you that it’s really fun, because students can learn about my culture every day; and in the same way, I learn a lot from them—maybe words that are different in my country. Even though maybe they come from Mexico or from El Salvador—they are Spanish-speaking countries—but we have so many different words and expressions, so it is so fun. They learn from me, and I learn from them!
How has your experience been living in Texas? What has surprised you the most?
I really like it. I’ve been visiting a lot of different places so far here. There are a lot of cultural activities available for all kinds of people. During the weekend, since I am here with my family, we always try to find different activities. We went to the zoo, we went to the arboretum, and on Christmas we went to Florida to visit my family there. It was a great experience.
And I’ve been very in touch with the other teachers from this program. We’ve been a very good group. We spend time together almost every weekend. We meet, we go out, and do things.
I think the weather caught me by surprise, because I come from a very hot place in Venezuela. It’s a very hot city. I didn’t know that here in Texas they can have very cold weather in winter. I didn’t know that, and when it started getting colder and colder, I was like, “Ahhh!” But the first time watching the snow falling was really fun.
Have you had any culture shock? What happened and how are you handling it?
I think at the beginning when I just arrived, maybe with the language—with the different accents. Sometimes I didn’t understand very well different accents like in the street or some of the teachers from the school who are from different cities or states in the United States. I was not used to different accents.
That was a little bit shocking, because sometimes I didn’t understand. Now I feel more confident, and I think I understand a lot now.
Tell us about your colleagues and their role in your exchange experience so far.
They played a very important role in my experience. As I told you before, my co-teachers have been so friendly and helpful with me. Without them, I think it would be impossible to get in a new school with a new educational system—evaluations and requirements and things to do. Without the help of your colleagues, it could be really hard.
There is a teacher from Puerto Rico. She is another bilingual teacher in the school, and since Day 1 she offered me her help so many times—in so many circumstances. That has been a blessing for us. It’s like she has adopted us like her family. She gives me a ride every day from my home to school and then back to home. She’s really nice to me and my family, so I’m very thankful for that.
What is something that you’ve shared with your students about your own culture this year?
I have shared some national items like the flag, the national bird, the national tree, the national flower, the map… I showed them the map, and they were like, “We didn’t even know that there was a country named Venezuela!” They didn’t know where it was located. But that was fun and interesting because I think they learned a lot.
Now when they see the flag, they recognize that “Oh, that’s the flag of the country of my teacher!” and I feel so glad for that.
At the end of the presentation, I was showing them some places like beaches and mountains from my country, and they were like, “Ms. Herrera, we want to go to Venezuela with you! Let’s take a plane and let’s go to Venezuela!” and I was just like, “Awww!”
Tell us about what your cultural exchange activity plans are for your students this year.
I’m going to do it in March after the spring break with a colleague from Venezuela. She teaches the same grade level. They are going to have an International Week, so it’s the perfect time for them to learn about this country or this state from this country. And of course, I’m going to prepare something for my students, too, so they can show them.
Mostly, I want to consider the state of Texas—they can show them the flag, what all the colors mean, the star, and maybe fun facts from the state. That will be great.
What is some advice you can give to other Spanish Bilingual Exchange Teachers who are coming to the U.S. in Fall 2022?
I can tell them that even though the process that we need to take is long and it’s maybe tiring and sometimes you are like, “Ugh, I cannot find this paper” or “This is so difficult”— I can tell them that once they take the first step, don’t get discouraged. I mean, this is going to happen. Believe that you can do it.
Believe that it’s going to happen, because once you get here, it’s worth it. When you get to know all those kids in your classroom and the warm welcome that you receive from your colleagues, from your Host School, and all the people around you, it’s just priceless, so keep going. Encourage yourself to do it, because if you believe it, you can do it!
Thank you Lisneidy for sharing your experience and photos with us!
Spirit Cultural Exchange’s Teacher Program allows educators to teach in the USA full-time at an accredited primary or secondary school while sharing their culture with American schoolchildren. Whether teaching in a Spanish bilingual classroom at an elementary school or instructing high school students in advanced chemistry, Spirit’s J-1 Visa Teacher Program has a lasting impact on our participants’ careers and on the lives of many in their host communities.
If you are interested in participating in our Teacher Program, please click here.
If you would like more information about hosting an international teacher in your school or district, you can learn more here.