Bringing Spanish Culture to Chelmsford High School
CHS World Language students learning more than Spanish from exchange teachers Leire Perez Quiroz and Carlos Martin Carracedo
CHELMSFORD, MA (Mar. 16, 2022) – To become fluent in a second language, a student must immerse themself in that culture. For its Spanish language students, the Chelmsford High School World Languages Department did the next best thing: it brought Spanish culture to Chelmsford.
For up to the next three years, Leire Perez Quiroz and Carlos Martin Carracedo, both English educators in their native Spain, will teach Spanish language and culture to CHS students. Both Ms. Perez Quiroz and Mr. Martin Carracedo took advantage of an exchange program which sends 700 teachers from Spain to teach in the U.S., 30 of whom in greater Boston.
One of the added benefits in having Mr. Martin Carracedo and Ms. Perez Quiroz on staff is the fact they both hail from different regions of Spain. Mr. Martin Carracedo was raised in Tenerife, Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), about 1,000 miles southwest of Spain off the coast of Morocco and Western Sahara, Africa.
Ms. Perez Quiroz hails from Mota del Cuervo, a small village 80 miles southeast of Madrid in central Spain. Each region has different dialects, accents and subtle cultural differences.
They are the first exchange teachers at CHS. According to all parties involved, it is a rousing success.
“Obviously in a world language it’s incredibly important to have native speakers wherever possible,” said Jessica Nollet, World Languages Coordinator Chelmsford Public Schools. “It’s also incredibly difficult to find native speakers. At first, I think our students were a little intimidated because Leire and Carlos were doing what they should’ve been doing – a using a lot of Spanish. They bring all sorts of anecdotes and experiences to the classroom that are unique.”
That includes sharing their knowledge of the educational system in Spain where school days are shorter by about an hour and start between 8 and 8:30 a.m. The classes are larger – “I taught 27-30 students,” Mr. Martin Carracedo said – while studies are book-centric. There is also a limited selection of electives compared to U.S. high schools.
“Here, the focus is on communication,” Mr. Martin Carracedo said. “I like that better.”
The whole experience of teaching and living in another country was what drew Ms. Perez Quiroz to Chelmsford. She had previously been an assistant teacher in Bournemouth, England and an Erasmus Program student at the University of Strasbourg in France. “I knew some colleagues who had done it,” she said. “I’m interested in learning how other schools work. Whenever you teach, you try to learn and improve. This was an opportunity to learn.”
One difference Ms. Perez Quiroz emphasized was the role of department coordinators, such as Ms. Nollet’s. “That helps,” she said. “In Spain, the management team is a group of teachers that still teach.”
Ms. Perez Quiroz also lauded CHS’s focus on student wellness, professional development and the teachers’ involvement in student activities.
“In Spain, when the school day ends, it’s finished. Everyone has their life,” she said. “Here, the teachers are leaders for different clubs. It reflects the fact that they really invest in the activities of their students.”
While Mr. Martin Carracedo arrived at Chelmsford in early August, Ms. Perez arrival was Aug. 23, merely a week prior to the first day of classes. “Now we’re in the middle of the year,” said Mr. Martin Carracedo, who had taught for six years in Tenerife, one year in Cardiff, Wales and one year as an assistant teacher in Washington, D.C. “I’m learning a lot and liking the experience and the different strategies in the way we teach.”
For everything Mr. Carracedo and Ms. Perez Quiroz enjoy about the U.S. and New England, there were and are things to which they needed to adapt in acclimating to a new culture (such as securing a social security number, finding living space, a car, knowing so few people).
Ms. Perez Quiroz is a walker. In Mota del Cuervo, she walked everywhere or simply took a train or a bus for longer distances. Residing in South Lowell, the grid doesn’t lend itself to walking. Other than the commuter rail into Boston, New England’s public transit system doesn’t compare to the efficiency of Europe.
Thus, she bought a car.
The fluctuating New England weather took adjusting. The climate in Tenerife is ideal: the average temperature in the winter months is just above 60 degrees. In July, it is just above 75 on average. It is similar in Ms. Perez Quiroz’s hometown in central Spain, only the winter is slightly cooler.
While learning the nuances of the U.S. educational system is the priority, travel is very important to both Ms. Perez Quiroz and Mr. Martin Carracedo. Since they arrived, they have made the most of their long weekends and holiday breaks. Ms. Perez Quiroz has traveled to Acadia National Park, Florida Keys, Seattle and the Bahamas. Mr. Martin Carracedo traveled to Hawai’i over February break and has also been to Seattle. They both gush over the natural beauty of New England, it’s national parks and refuge areas.
Occasionally, they will meet with their teaching exchange colleagues around Boston.
While Ms. Perez Quiroz and Mr. Martin Carracedo are the first-ever exchange teachers at CHS, they likely won’t be the last.
“It’s something we want to continue for language growth,” said Ms. Nollet. “I’ve observed Carlos and Leire and they are very organized and have well-planned lessons. They have had very positive interactions with students.”
About Chelmsford Public Schools
The Chelmsford Public School District provides all students with multiple pathways to optimize their own potential for academic excellence, leadership, and social and emotional wellness. The mission of the Chelmsford Public Schools is to educate, engage, prepare, and empower well-rounded and knowledgeable learners to PERSEVERE through challenges, demonstrate RESPECT and INTEGRITY in their words and actions, are DEDICATED to their community, and display EMPATHY as global citizens while discovering and pursuing their full potential. This PRIDE-driven culture enables all members of the school community to support the growth and development of students. For more information, please visit www.chelmsfordschools.org.