Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a retired Speech and Language Pathologist. I mostly worked in public schools for 44 years. After raising and launching two boys, I decided to combine traveling with volunteer work. This past winter, I went to Valparaíso, Chile through ISA. I lived with a local family, attended intensive Spanish grammar and Chilean culture classes at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, and then spent the month of March volunteering at a Special Education Center, Centro Bellavista, as a service-learning project.
Can you share more information about your career path as a Speech and Language Pathologist?
I decided to pursue that career in college. I majored in Speech Pathology as an undergraduate at Syracuse University in 1969, and obtained a Master of Science in the same field at the University of Wisconsin in 1970.
Did you have international volunteer experience before your ISA Service-Learning program?
How did you choose your service-learning program in Valparaíso?
I had visited Valparaíso in 2009, and loved the city. I always wanted to go back there. When I was deciding where to volunteer in 2016, Valpo was my first choice. I googled “volunteering in Valparaíso,” and the ISA Service-Learning website came up. Centro Bellavista, a school for special education students, sounded perfect for my experience. There was only one problem: they required a high intermediate level Spanish. Before my program, my skills were low intermediate at best. ISA suggested that I do an intensive month of Spanish language before my service-learning work, so I did.
What were the similarities and differences of working as a Speech and Language Therapist in the U.S. and as an Aide at a Special Education Center in Chile?
As a Speech and Language Therapist in the US, I usually worked with small groups of students who came out of their classrooms to my therapy room. I also did whole-class lessons in mostly special ed. classes. I evaluated students, held meetings with teachers and parents, consulted with staff, wrote thousands of reports, and did mountains of paper work. At Centro Bellavista, I basically was an Aide and co-taught two classes – a morning class of 4 boys with autism and an afternoon class of 12 mentally challenged older kids. The teachers were outstanding – friendly, knowledgeable, positive, affectionate, and patient. I felt very lucky to be involved with them and their students. The speech therapist did not start working with the students until after I left. But I did talk to her, compared ideas and techniques, and was impressed with what she would be doing for these students, teachers, and families. I feel I made important relationships with the students in my classes and with the teachers and Aides with whom I worked. The teachers and I had mutual respect for one another, shared ideas and observations about the students, and connected on personal levels as well.
What did a typical day look like at the special education center in Valparaíso?
At the Special Education Center, I arrived at 8:30 am and stayed until at least 4:30 pm, sometimes later. We followed the same routine in the classrooms every day: opening free time, schedule review, work time, outdoor recreation, hand washing, snack, teeth brushing, work time, ending free time. We had an hour break between the morning and afternoon classes for lunch.
What is next for you?
Next for me are more volunteer trips each year. I hope to go to another Spanish-speaking country next year to keep up my language skills.
The World Awaits…Discover it.