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Upper School Spanish Students Hear New Perspectives from Guest Speakers
Rachel Freeman, communications/website manager

Upper School Spanish teacher Francisco Becerra recently invited two guest speakers into his Spanish 401 class, both of whom shared stories from their lives related to units of study the students have completed this year. 

In November, students embarked on a unit about educational systems in Spanish-speaking countries throughout the world. As part of this unit, they explored the educational systems of Spain, Mexico, and Cuba, among others. They also had an opportunity to choose another Spanish-speaking country to learn about, and they chose Equatorial Guinea, the only African country with Spanish as its official language.

“I tried to research their educational system, but I couldn’t find much online,” Francisco said. “I did find a YouTuber whose videos share the culture and systems of Equatorial Guinea, and decided to reach out to her to see if she’d join one of my classes.” 

Francisco reached out via Facebook and Instagram to YouTuber Monanga Buenenke. Then he waited and waited but never heard back from her. However, in March, Francisco received a reply and Monanga shared that she’d be happy to have a conversation with Francisco’s students.

“Monanga was very easy to talk to, and the conversation flowed smoothly,” sophomore Emma M. said. “Despite our less polished Spanish, Monanga answered our questions in depth. It was really interesting to hear her speak, since her accent is far different from Francisco’s or any other Spanish teacher I have had in the past. I enjoyed comparing the way she said certain words against the pronunciations I’ve learned. Most of all, it was fascinating to hear Monanga speak about her experience living in Equatorial Guinea and attending university in Málaga, Spain.”

Francisco echoed Emma’s comments. “It was really interesting to hear her journey,” he said. “It’s very important to me that I bring diversity into my class. Having an African person speaking in Spanish was a very valuable experience for my class and for me, too.”

Last week, the class welcomed author Karla Cornejo Villevicencio, whose essay collection Undocumented Americans recently received a rave review in the New York Times

“[Middle and Upper School writing teacher] Jennifer Perry has a connection to Karla, and as we thought about ways to support the school in the weeks ahead, we were able to put together a remote visit,” Interim Humanities Director and WRC Director Jennifer Paull said. 

Francisco added, “We finished a unit of study on immigration just before we went to remote learning. As part of this unit, students had to interview someone in the community who immigrated to the U.S. When Jen Paull suggested having Karla in my class, I started investigating Karla. Her history is completely different from what we’ve studied in class. It was so interesting to hear a different point of view.”

Francisco received a lot of great feedback from students this week during conferences about these two guests, and he is hoping to bring in another speaker. “I want to find someone whose work is focused on environmental issues and is also a Spanish speaker,” he said. “I think it is valuable for students to hear a completely different point of view that teachers can’t offer in the classroom.”

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