Paige Farris ’12 brings study abroad to Teach for America classroom
Paige Farris ’12, like many Teach For America (TFA) corps members, works in a remote area of the country to educate students who need it most. And while Palestine, Ark., may seem like the middle of nowhere, Farris (above, bottom right) is working to connect her students to other parts of the world through a trip to Costa Rica in July 2015.
Farris traveled abroad to Mexico (pictured right) and Spain multiple times as a Centre College student; now, as a Spanish teacher at Palestine-Wheatley High School, she hopes to share a similar experience with her students.
“It’s so important for my students to study abroad,” she says, “because it breaks down barriers of language and culture. None of my students have ever left the United States, and many have never been outside of Arkansas. Right now, their world-view is so focused on how things work in their small rural town; they’ve never had the chance to see how other people live.”
Farris is partnering with Education First educational tours to take her class to Costa Rica, where they will see volcanoes and hot springs, kayak and plant trees in a cloud forest, as well as visit a local school in Monteverde to meet with peers.
Aside from the excitement of being in a new place and experiencing a different culture, the opportunity to speak Spanish with native speakers is one Farris is excited for her students to share.
“It’s vital for their language skills that they meet and speak with native speakers of Spanish,” Farris explains. “Our town is less than 1 percent Hispanic or Latino, and many students have never met a native Spanish speaker. There is only so much of a language that you can teach in a classroom.”
Ultimately, Farris’ own experiences abroad as a Centre student inspired her.
“Most of my language skills developed abroad,” she says. “And I had so many memorable experiences. I attended a wedding in Mérida with my host brother and was the only American person there. It was so wonderful to be part of such an important day and be able to go to such an authentic cultural event.”
Farris’ students are also a huge inspiration to her.
“They are so curious and ask me how to say hundreds of words in Spanish every day, even if they aren’t part of the lesson,” she says. “They inspire me to be better at my job and work harder to make sure they are getting the best education possible.
“I think after this trip, my students will be better equipped to go on to a rigorous college,” she continues, “and be confident in their ability to set big goals and achieve them.”
Farris and her class have raised $1,108 of the $14,000 necessary to pay for airfare, hotels, meals, tour guides and other travel expenses. To learn more, visit http://www.gofundme.com/puravidapalestine or email Paige at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mariel Smith