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International Teachers

Spreading Warmth – Local Adviser of the Year Margarita Gomez

Local advisers support new international teachers as they adjust to life in the United States as part of Participate's cultural exchange program. Local advisers are fellow teachers who help their colleagues learn about their new community, find a place to live and answer the many questions that invariably come with adjusting to life in a new country! Hear from the 2017-18 Local Adviser of the Year, Margarita Gomez, about her experience and why she became a local adviser.

When I started this role two years ago, my first thought was to go beyond the basic procedures set forth by Participate for local advisers, to not only provide support, but something that I called warmth.

Being a local adviser requires commitment, responsibility and kindness. This is not just about the money, it’s about welcoming new teachers and letting them know they are not alone—they are part of a community of Participate teachers now that they are here.

It’s about welcoming new teachers and letting them know they are not alone

As a local adviser I had the opportunity to see in the eyes of my advisees the excitement, the energy, as well as the strength or perrenque as we say in Colombia. These are teachers who face every challenge and enjoy it. Not only that, it has been amazing to know teachers from different places such as Peru, Honduras and Venezuela. This is a unique experience that is worth experiencing for oneself.

I’m convinced that when we want to help others, we should to do it without hesitation. This goes for local advisers, too! As soon as new teachers arrive, the next month is just for them, by helping them with housing, transportation and important places in their new home.

It is essential to explain the most important ideas about school, and how this system is incredibly different from our home countries, since this difference can have the biggest impact for teachers in their first year. One thing I tell my advisees is that there is no such thing as silly questions! Every single question is an opportunity to learn, as well as to get to know them on an individual level and how they are progressing in this new experience.

Every single question is an opportunity to learn

If you’re considering becoming a local adviser, you should know how important and serious this role is. It is not just picking up the teacher and leaving them in a hotel or at their new home—it is about showing them warmth and making this experience easier for them every step of the way.

Getting to know the new teachers and their personalities is one of the best things about this role. This year I had the opportunity to receive two teachers from Colombia and one teacher from Venezuela. Another teacher who came this year shares a hobby with my husband, riding bikes, so they connect over that and hang out.

Without the local adviser program it would not be possible to make these connections or help these teachers with basic logistics like getting housing and transportation in the beginning. Understanding their unique needs and sharing time together allows us to make beautiful connections and friendships. After all, isn't that what cultural exchange is about?

Margarita is a math teacher at Selma Middle School in Selma, NC and is originally from Colombia.

Want to learn more about being a cultural exchange teacher with Participate? Check out the experience of a former Participate teacher!