Students might never guess it, but teachers have first-day jitters too.
That’s especially true when the first day of school after summer break is a teacher’s first day working in a classroom in the United States.
Selene Alcantara Covarrubias, winner of a Fulbright Scholarship with the U.S. Department of State Teacher Exchange Program, started teaching a dual-language third-grade class at Molholm Elementary School in Lakewood Monday. This is her first year teaching elementary students, her first year having her own classroom, and first year teaching American students.
“This is my first time as a full teacher and in an elementary school,” Covarrubias said. “It’s a huge change, but I think I’m going to be fine.”
Covarrubias is from Toluca, the capital of the state of Mexico, in southcentral Mexico. For the past six years, she has taught English to middle schoolers at Secundaria 5 Anexa a la ENSEM. Last year, she said, she had 53 students in her class. She will have 20 students in her classroom at Molholm.
She said having such large class sizes added an extra challenge, as did the lack of space which forced several classes to share a room.
“Here I have my own class,” Covarrubias said. “I keep thinking about how I want to organize it and decorate it.”
She spent a year working as an assistant in England in 2006, and said she did not get as much time interacting with students so she is excited to have the opportunity to have her own class.
At Molholm, she will teach students of whom 60 percent are native Spanish speakers and 40 percent are native English speakers. She will teach math, science, social studies, reading and writing.
Miranda Hayes is the Jeffco Public Schools teacher who is trading places with Covarrubias and will teach in Toluca.
This is not Hayes’ first time teaching in another country. After graduating from college, she said, she spent a year teaching in Japan, then taught in Mexico for two years before returning to Jefferson County to teach at Iber Elementary School in Lakewood for three years. She teaches a dual-language classroom in the Jeffco district.
The two teachers met in Washington, D.C., for a Fulbright orientation before departing for each other’s cities. Both teachers have been in the other’s country for two weeks. Through the program, the teachers continue to receive their salary from their home school and a stipend from the scholarship program.
Hayes has an apartment within walking distance of her school in Toluca, but Covarrubias has a different sort of living arrangement.
“Economically, the rate of exchange between Mexico and the U.S. is disadvantageous,” said Rod Hayes, Miranda Hayes’ father
Hayes and his wife, Bonnie, both retired Jeffco teachers, offered to host Covarrubias for the next year.
She arrived three weeks ago, and Rod Hayes said the experience has been wonderful so far.
The couple is looking forward to helping her explore Colorado.
Covarrubias said she is eager to try skiing this year because she has never seen snow.
“For any teacher, the opportunity to be exposed to education programs, curriculum and approaches to classroom education is enriching,” Rod Hayes said. “The opportunity to be immersed in a language that is not your native language, to live and work in a community is very enriching.”