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Dayra's Learning Adventure: From Student to EAL specialist

What do you do at ISP, how long have you worked here?

I just completed my sixth year at ISP.  I am part of the EAL ( English as an additional language) department.  I was the EAL specialist in charge of fifth grade for five years and this year for the first time in my life, worked full time with kindergarten.   

How did you arrive at ISP as a student?

ISP has always meant opportunity and rigorous academic challenge to me.  In December 1996, I completed the ninth grade at the Instituto Fermin Naudeau.  The school received a letter from ISP offering the opportunity of a full scholarship to the student with the highest GPA in their ninth-grade class.  Along with several other students from other schools around Panama, I took an admissions test.  I also had an interview with Ms. Jutta Patterson, the HS principal at the time.  I am proud to say that I was the recipient of the full scholarship and subsequently enrolled at ISP in January 1997.  Once there, I had the opportunity to learn English and catch up with the new system and teaching style. I accepted ISP's challenges for all that they are worth by taking the IB diploma and graduating from ISP in the year 2000. 

Dayra as a student

What is your fondest memory of ISP as a student?

There are many great memories from my three years and a half at ISP.  I remember a trip to Chiriqui with the Science club.  It was very fun.  I also loved a trip we had to La Guaira to do some water analysis.  That was amazing.  I loved the science fairs and international day.  I enjoyed performing Panamanian traditional dances at ISP.  I also remember one year two friends and I dressed up as Santa’s helpers and sang at a Christmas Concert.  I can’t believe we did that, but we did, and although it was embarrassing, it was also a lot of fun. 

What was your favorite subject?

Chemistry and Biology were my favorite subjects.  Mrs. Zevallos, Ms. Bernal, and Mrs. Gondola were very patient and dedicated teachers.   I also enjoyed learning Math from Mrs. Solis and Mr. Altaji.  My IB Spanish teacher, Ms. Diana Hernandez, taught us literature in such a fantastic way.  I am still fascinated with the way she taught the course and I became passionate about languages thanks to her. 

Where did you on to study? How do you feel ISP helped prepare you for that next step?

 I graduated in May 2000.  ISP was kind of like a short intensive course for life.  I got a full scholarship to study at John Brown University, in Arkansas.  I studied Biochemistry.  While in the U.S., I volunteered at a Literacy Council where I taught English as a Second Language to the Latin community living in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.  I had a smooth transition to college thanks to what I had learned at ISP.  I remember that my Psychology class was pretty much a repetition of what I had learned at ISP with Mr. Price.  I also really liked psychology.  ISP did not only prepare me academically but also taught me about the beauty of diversity and made me value my culture and background a lot more.    

What made you decide to be a teacher?

That's a funny question.  I never thought I was going to become a teacher. 90% of my roommates while studying Biochemistry at JBU were studying to become teachers.  While I was memorizing chemical structures, they were making beautiful posters and learning about different “learning styles.”  I  used to spend many hours isolated in a small laboratory working on my projects, so when I actually saw people, I was very talkative.  One of my friends told me that she could not picture me working in a laboratory for the rest of my life, that I needed to do something where I could interact more with people.  Also, while working with the Literacy Council in Arkansas, I was told that I was a really good teacher.  Still, I never consider teaching as a career. 

When I returned to Panama, as a favor, I was asked to cover for a Math teacher for a couple of months at Saint Mary’s School.  I had just returned to Panama, so why not give it a go?  After I left Saint Mary’s, I worked as a Science Teacher at the Instituto Alberto Einstein and then in Colegio Brader.  I never sent my resume to any school looking for a teaching position.  I don’t even know how they contacted me.  And just like that, I was immersed in education.  That’s when I decided to pursue another career and studied Teaching English as an Additional Language.  I do love working with students (all ages I believe.) 

Now that I teach EAL, it makes me value what my teachers did for me when I first arrived at ISP.  It is not easy to learn content and socialize in a foreign language.  The years I worked as a Science Teacher, I was completely passionate about the beauty of science and its value.  Now that I support students in the acquisition of a new language, I identify with them and try to give them all the tools necessary for them to be successful in an environment where language can be a barrier.  As a teacher, I have always been a “Mama Gallina,”  caring for each of my students as if they were my own children.  I still don’t know how education was not one of my options while at college.  

You have a son that goes to ISP, what do you enjoy the most about seeing him at school and watching him learn?

My son and I are very different.  I was very calm and structured.  He is energetic and passionate about life.  He attended a preschool that followed the creative curriculum and I liked it.  I could see how it was beneficial to him and his personality, so ISP was perfect for him.  It is very special to have him attend ISP.  I enjoy watching him learn and grow in an environment where we have the world in one place. 
We are Panamanians living in Panama.  So he is very lucky to have the opportunity to experience other cultures in his own country.  We have so much fun getting ready for special activities and events such as Bringing Literature to Life, Spirit Week, POD days, pink shirt day, among many others.  Not that many children have the opportunity to wear PJs to school with their mom. He loves ISP.  He enjoys the different units taught throughout the school year.  Since there is always “something going on” at school, it doesn’t give him the opportunity to get bored at school.  He loves concerts and performances.  He is a showman himself, so having the opportunities to have everything in one place is amazing to him.  
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