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Student teachers share diverse experiences

Hatch Elementary School’s bilingual programs draws educators

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Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 3:00 pm | Updated: 3:05 pm, Thu Sep 20, 2012.

With its emphasis on bilingual education, Hatch Elementary School has attracted teaching talent from all over the world.

A handful of student teachers and visiting scholars, training to get teaching credentials, arrived at the start of the school year, but they are already learning how to best partner with teachers.

“You have me reading twice,” student teacher Cristina Smith pointed out as she compared lesson plan notes with Johanna Gelb, the third-grade teacher hosting Smith at Hatch. Gelb chuckled.

“Oh, that’s the name of the book,” Gelb clarified. She pulled out a storybook called, “Miss Smith Reads Again!” by Michael Garland.

The two, who share a passion for reading programs and bilingual education, were matched together after filling out a questionnaire based on their interests.

After living in Mexico and Spain and spending 25 years in the classroom, Gelb has learned — and taught — a thing or two. Now, she is prepared to share her wisdom with aspiring elementary school teachers like Smith.

Teachers who volunteer to have student teachers in the classroom receive a small stipend, but Gelb also uses her student teachers as an opportunity to stay sharp.

“It makes me more responsible,” said Gelb. “I want to be the best role model.”

As the semester progresses, Gelb will gradually give Smith more responsibilities until she’s ready to teach independently.

“It’s like an apprenticeship,” said Smith, a graduate student in Stanford University’s intensive, one-year education program.

Smith grew up speaking Spanish with her Argentinian mother, but much of the academic vocabulary she’s using with Hatch’s immersion students is new to her.

Learning on the job, Smith’s agenda is packed with activities that she hopes will equip her to be an effective bilingual elementary school teacher.

She commutes from Palo Alto to Half Moon Bay by 7:30 a.m. for the start of school.

She works side by side with Gelb and her students for the first half of the day. Then Smith drives back to Stanford, where she has class until 6 p.m.

“I have to allot time to go to sleep and do my studies,” said Smith.

Student teachers are not the only teachers-in-training working tirelessly to improve their craft.

Scholars from countries including Colombia, Chile and Spain who aim to pursue a career in education have come to Half Moon Bay on a cultural exchange program sponsored by the Amity Institute, an organization dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding and friendship.

Noemi Rosado of Madrid has immersed herself in assisting third-, fourth- and fifth-graders with reading, writing, math and science, as well as observing cultural differences.

Amazed that parents volunteer in local schools, Rosado found American public schools function very differently from those in her native Spain.

“It’s awesome because they’re giving their time, a part of their lives for their kids and community,” said Rosado. “In Spain … you don’t get involved as much — at least not as much as here. … This school would be unthinkable in Spain. This school couldn’t be working without parents working.”

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