Educators from the Universidad Católica del Maule in Talca, Chile visit the USask campus.
Educators from the Universidad Católica del Maule in Talca, Chile visit the USask campus. (Photo: Submitted)

USask hosts English language development and teacher training program in partnership with Chilean university

The College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), along with the International Research and Partnerships Office and the Language Centre, hosted 21 English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers from the Universidad Católica del Maule (UCM) in Talca, Chile from May 1 – 30.

Coordinated by the Saskatchewan Educational Leadership Unit and the Language Centre, the month-long program included instruction in English as a Second Language pedagogy training, time spent observing primary and secondary classrooms in Saskatoon and area K-12 schools, and intensive English-language instruction and participation in cultural activities around Saskatoon. 

Key USask staff on the initiative also included Dr. Vicki Squires, associate dean, research, graduate support and international initiatives in the College of Education, Greg McJannett, associate director, SELU and Denise Hauta, director, Language Centre. Nadia Prokopchuk, academic advisor and instructor in the Department of Curriculum Studies taught the month-long course and education student Kayla Puetz was the teaching assistant.

“We started coordinating the visit in 2019, and to see it finally delivered is incredibly rewarding,” said Patty Corkal, international special programs coordinator with the Language Centre.

Dr. Andrew Philominraj, professor with UCM, was instrumental to the program development and accompanied the teachers to USask.

“It was his work and the work of Jorge Burgos at UCM to bring this project forward to USask. The project was led by UCM but funded by the government of Maule to train teachers from both urban and rural areas to increase their ESL teaching skills and enhance their pedagogy and methodology,” shared Corkal.

At a farewell lunch and certificate presentation at the end of May, Interim Provost Teaching Learning and Student Experience Dr. Jay Wilson (PhD), offered his congratulations to the students and spoke of the benefits the partnership brings.

“What you do here will benefit your students, it will provide you with the opportunity to open up new perspectives,” said Wilson. “We are really proud of the relationships we have with Chile, there is a significant Chilean community here in Saskatoon and this program is one way of honouring those relationships.”

For the elementary and secondary teachers that journeyed to USask, it was an excellent learning opportunity that will improve their classroom teaching in Chile. Each educator that participated applied and was successful in receiving a scholarship from the Gobierno Regional del Maule (Maule’s Regional Government) to participate. Educator Martin Fuenzalida teaches grades 4 to 8 at a rural school and is eager to return to the classroom.

“This scholarship is a great opportunity not only for us, but for our students. They are going to feel the new energy and the new ideas, how innovative we are going to get when we get back to Chile,” said Martin. “I’m looking forward to being [back in my class] to share all the experiences and methodologies that I got here.”

With the success of the visit, USask and UCM are continuing the partnership and have plans for another group of teachers from Chile to come to campus in November.

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