SRU students to teach, learn during faculty-led program in Spain


Castle in Spain

Twenty-one students from Slippery Rock University will travel to Valencia, Spain, Jan. 3-15, to teach at the American School of Valencia and visit various sites including Xàtiva Castle.

Dec. 14, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Adrianna Bielby has wanted to go to Spain since she first took a Spanish class as a freshman in high school. Thanks to a faculty-led program at Slippery Rock University, Bielby and 20 other SRU students will have the opportunity to travel to Spain and teach schoolchildren while in country.

Bielby, a senior early childhood-special education major from Monaca, would not typically have the opportunity to travel overseas during her final year at SRU because most faculty-led international programs are offered during spring break when many senior education majors are completing their student-teaching requirements. However, Sara Tours, assistant professor of elementary education and early childhood, recognized an interest for a winter break program and organized a trip to Barcelona and Valencia, Spain, Jan. 3-15, 2019.

Adrianna Bielby


"I love taking Dr. Tours' classes and being around her; she's so much fun," Bielby said. "I always wanted to go to Spain, so when I heard she was taking a group there, and how much passion she has about going, I was excited to sign up. (My motivation) was a mesh of all those things."

Tours has a connection with Valencia. While completing her doctoral degree at Florida State University in 2013, Tours took classes at FSU's Valencia Study Center and was an intern at the American School of Valencia, teaching a kindergarten class.

"It's full-circle for me to bring my students to where I was," said Tours, who returned to teach for a year at ASV after completing her doctoral degree in early childhood education. "I'm really excited to bring them there to show them how the school works."

ASV is a school for students' ages 2-18 that offers an International Baccalaureate diploma, which is an internationally acceptable university admissions qualification. ASV was established in 1980 to accommodate families needing an English-language based education after an international automobile manufacturer opened a plant in Valencia. The school continues to thrive as the region's leading international school despite the plant's closure.

SRU students will be paired with an ASV teacher and will prepare to teach two group lessons to ASV students. Bielby is assigned to a preschool class and plans to teach the children about Pennsylvania or a topic related to American culture.

"I want them to experience a little bit about where I'm from," said Bielby, who worked three days a week last semester with children at the SRU/Student Government Association Preschool and Child Care Center. "I really enjoy working with the younger ages. I want to see if there's anything different (in Spain), especially because I worked with the preschool here."

Tours said the SRU students would notice differences in communicating with children, like pronunciation of words or unfamiliarity of slang, but also with the teaching methods.

"I love learning from different cultures and different ways of teaching," Tours said. "There's not one type of student or one style of school, and there's always a new way to approach teaching."

Another difference Tours experienced while at ASV was how kindergarten teachers developed children's fine motor skills by having them use a pen-like device to poke holes in paper laid over felt instead of giving them scissors to cut the paper.

The SRU group will also get to experience culture outside the classroom. They will visit Barcelona, including the Sagrada Família church and the Park Güell, as well as the Xàtiva Castle in Valencia. Teachers from ASV will also join SRU students on some of the cultural experiences, allowing the students to further develop relationships with them as mentors.

"I'm so excited to experience the culture and meet people that I'm not used to here," said Bielby, who will be traveling overseas for the first time. "I can't wait to go."

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