A Bilingual Education
International student gets unique opportunity to co-teach in dual-language classroom
Growing up in Nicaragua, Luz Anaheli Stegner knew she wanted to teach. The interactive, collaborative bilingual classroom she teaches in now is far beyond her wildest dreams.
The University of Idaho College of Education, Health and Human Sciences senior is student teaching at the Libby Center, a gifted and talented school in Spokane, Washington. She is one of two teachers for the bilingual English and Spanish kindergarten program.
She teaches in English, and her partner instructs in Spanish. The two classes switch every week, giving all the students an education in both languages.
“At first, I was nervous, but once I was there for a week, I got to see the new kids and had more ideas. I wish I was teaching in Spanish, but it’s good practice to be teaching in my second language,” she said.
Stegner’s mother, an elementary teacher in Nicaragua, was her earliest inspiration.
“She was a single mom and a kindergarten teacher, and she was always telling me, ‘The only thing I can give you is your education. That’s your inheritance,’” Stegner said. “I always wanted to be like her and teach the little ones.”
Teaching in Nicaragua
Stegner started her teaching career at a middle school in Nicaragua.
“I knew classrooms were going to be different in the U.S. compared to Nicaragua. It was like starting over, in a sense,” she said.
Stegner moved to Moscow when her husband, Henry, started law school at U of I. She took the opportunity to work toward her education degree and found a new, collaborative teaching method.
“My professors taught me how to let the student guide the learning,” she said. “Here, you teach and guide them, but let them figure it out and explore.”
Stegner wanted to teach middle school after she graduated — until she started working in the U of I Childcare Center and saw the impact she had on the children.
“I was like, ‘Oh this is really fun,’” she said. “At the end of the unit, when you review and see the students learn is really awesome, like, ‘Wow, I can transfer information to them.’”
The experience helped her realize elementary school was her calling, just like her mother.
“The education curriculum allowed me to go see real classrooms and push myself,” she said. “I knew if it was hard I would learn better patience and more strategies to help other students.”
She finished a service-learning project at the Latah County Juvenile Detention Center.
“I was tutoring students. It helped me see the whole spectrum of students in different situations, and teachers teaching in different settings,” she said.
Scholarships Helped Her Reach Goals
The opportunities Stegner had would not have been available in her home country. She credits her husband with helping her achieve her dream at U of I.
“It’s scary to come to this country and go to college. He was always telling me, ‘You can do it.’ It’s nice to hear those voices powering you, even though sometimes you feel like you’re not so sure,” she said.
Stegner also received scholarships from U of I.
“It was so nice I received those,” she said. “That made me work harder, because there was someone else giving me money without even knowing me.”
Vanessa Anthony-Stevens, an assistant professor of social and cultural studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, said Stegner was an eager and engaging student.
“I am bilingual as well, so we would explore ways she could create bilingual opportunities for students,” Anthony-Stevens said. “Bilingualism is undervalued in our education system, so Luz’s experience as a bilingual citizen brings an important voice to teacher education.”
Article by Tess Fox, University Communications & Marketing