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>  News Releases >   2007 >   June

Dartmouth-based partnership aims to help English teaching in Latin America

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/21/07 • Rebecca Bailey• (603) 646-3661

Twenty professors from Mexico's national university for training teachers will attend a 12-day, all-expenses-paid teaching workshop in Hanover this summer through a new partnership between Dartmouth's Rassias Foundation and a nonprofit organization working to improve education for Latin America's poor.

John Rassias
Professor John Rassias teaching his method to Mexican English teachers last March in a workshop in Mexico City. (Photo courtesy Worldfund)

The professors are from Universidad Pedagógica Nacional, which is headquartered in Mexico City and has 50 satellite campuses throughout Mexico. The faculty members will spend from June 25 to July 6 in what organizers hope will become an annual workshop at Dartmouth to help Latin American educators improve their instruction of English.

The visiting professors will spend four hours each morning with John Rassias, Dartmouth's William R. Kenan Professor and Rassias Foundation president, learning the acclaimed Rassias Method for teaching a second language. The afternoons will include seminars with educators from Columbia University and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; such local educators as noted author and educator Robert L. Fried, executive director of the Lebanon, NH-based Upper Valley Teacher Institute; and members of the Dartmouth faculty, some affiliated with the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning (DCAL). The group will also spend a weekend visiting historical Boston and meeting with Boston-based educators.

The program's goal is to enable the professors to learn a foreign-language pedagogy they can pass along to their university students who are studying to become English teachers in Mexico, said Luanne Zurlo, executive director of Worldfund, the organization that is partnering with Rassias. The program will start with Mexican educators but at some point will include educators from elsewhere in Latin America.

"In Mexico, it is absolutely imperative to know English to find good employment, particularly in tourism, which is the fastest growing sector of the economy," said Zurlo. Many children from poor families in Mexico don't have access to English language instruction; when they do, the instruction tends to be weak because it doesn't emphasize oral skills and is often taught by people who never heard a native speaker and were never taught a pedagogy, she said.

Zurlo has already lined up two Latin American corporations, Nextel Mexico and Fundacíon Televisa, to underwrite the estimated $70,000 in expenses for this year's program. "There's so much interest," she said. "Mexicans know they need to improve their English instruction."

The partners tested the concept with a pilot program they ran in March in Mexico City involving 13 hours of daily instruction for 18 secondary-school teachers from Mexican schools that Worldfund supports. "They really wanted to improve their English teaching and we gave them the best we had," Rassias said. "I believe it worked."

The partnership with the Rassias Foundation supports Worldfund's overall mission of addressing poverty by improving schools and educational programs for Latin America's poor. Since its founding in December 2002, Worldfund has made nearly $3 million in grants to schools and educational programs serving more than 30,000 students in eight Latin American countries.

Zurlo, a 1987 graduate of Dartmouth who holds graduate degrees in both business and international affairs/economics, founded Worldfund after almost 10 years as a Wall Street securities analyst specializing in the Latin American telecommunications industry. Travel throughout the region brought her face to face with the dearth of opportunity for the region's poor. "I often heard corporate managers complaining that they couldn't find good workers and, yet, you have all these people who can't find good jobs, and it's really the poor quality of education that's to blame. That's why corporations are going halfway around the world and investing in Asia rather than going right across the border in Latin America."

Elements of the Program for Mexican Educators
After morning sessions focused on the Rassias Method, the visitors will attend afternoon seminars addressing such topics as classroom management; curriculum design; peer involvement in writing instruction; teaching students with learning disabilities; web-based research; and school administrators' perspectives on hiring. Class sessions will be conducted in the Berry-Baker Library in the DCAL Teaching Center, which is a "smart classroom" equipped with audiovisual and computer projection systems and built-in video and audio conference equipment. DCAL Director and Cheheyl Professor Thomas Luxon "made available all his resources to assure the success of the program," Rassias said.

The Rassias Method
Developed by in the 1960s by John Rassias, the Rassias Method allows learners to quickly grasp a foreign language. The method involves fast-paced drills of students' oral language skills and emphasizes cultural education. The Rassias Method has been used to train more than 165,000 Peace Corps volunteers, as well as countless numbers of students and teachers throughout the world, many of them attending the ALPs (Accelerated Language Programs) the Rassias Foundation runs each summer.

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