NOTE: Each week throughout the school year, we will visit a school across Eastern Carver County Schools. Some weeks the plan may be to stop in multiple classrooms by grade, or by subject. Other weeks it may highlight a certain specialist group. The purpose is to give families and our community a glimpse into the every-day learning environment happening in our buildings. A chance to spotlight the incredible work our teachers and staff do on a daily basis for our students, and to showcase the incredible work our students produce as well. So, keep your Eye on ECCS!
Kevin Reyes had no idea where he’d end up after signing up to be an Amity intern at his university in Santa Ana, El Salvador. He could not have imagined ending up in a place where fishing on ice is a normal thing.
“My university really supports the Amity program. When I was asked if I wanted to do it, I told them ‘of course, I’m excited,’” Reyes said.
Reyes is one of two Amity interns at La Academia this school year. The other intern, Carlos Pacheco, is from Barcelona, Spain. La Academia has hosted interns for five years. First grade teacher Kelly Motta was instrumental in starting the connection with the Amity program, interim principal Stephanie McNair said.
Motta, who grew up in Chaska, was an English Immersion teacher in Chile a decade ago and has been a classroom teacher at La Academia since 2016.
“When I came to La Academia and the Amity program wasn't yet established at our school, I knew I had to get it going. I knew that many other immersion programs in the state have them, so we needed to jump in so that we could get the extra Spanish and cultural support,” Motta said.
“It took me a couple of years of research and lobbying, and in 2018 we finally got our first intern. This is our fifth year with the program and our goal would be to have one intern for every grade as well as one in the middle school and the high school to work with our immersion teachers there as well! But that takes lots of money; our parents and PTO fund the program through our fundraisers, and host families to host them while they're here,” Motta added.
Ever since he was a child, Reyes always dreamed of becoming a teacher. He has studied four and a half years to become an English teacher. Reyes is working with the four first-grade classrooms, while Pacheco partners with second graders.
“I’m so excited! I decided to do the Amity program because I want to keep improving as a teacher, and I believe it is a unique opportunity to discover new teaching methodologies and broaden my variety of resources,” Pacheco said.
Asked about his first few weeks with the children, “They ask a lot of questions. A lot of questions,” Reyes said as he laughed. “They are very interested in everything.”
Outside of 30 minutes of English instruction, first-grade classrooms at La Academia are taught entirely in Spanish. The ratio changes at different grade levels. Fifth-grade students receive a 50-50 balance between English and Spanish.
Of the kids in Motta’s classroom, less than a handful of the students come from a home where Spanish is the primary language. Even so, just in the third week back to school students seem to pick up most of what Motta and Reyes are saying to them. Hand gestures go a long way in helping students fully understand.
Reyes and Pacheco were hand-picked by the La Academia team. They are the first male interns La Academia has hosted. When not in a classroom, Reyes and Pacheco work individually with students that need additional support.
“They bring new perspectives and fresh young energy to our school. The students are always so excited to work with them and learn from them, and the families that host them benefit tremendously from the cultural exchange. They are extra helping hands with our little ones that need the extra support and another caring adult, and we learn so much from them as Spanish language models,” Motta said.
“Visiting the U.S. has always been one of my goals in life, and achieving it at such a young age is a dream come true for me. I want to do activities with my host family, socialize with the teachers as much as possible, travel, and seize the time here as much as possible,” Pacheco said.
“I've been in Minnesota for three weeks now, and I'm impressed by the kindness of the people (everyone keeps telling me I'll freeze in the winter). I'm very excited to learn from the entire staff at La Academia, and I'm also ready to put into practice all the knowledge I've gained over the past four years,” Reyes said.