Spanish instruction from the source

Bear Creek Elementary to host exchange teachers

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Aug 27, 2014 at 12:01AM

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• School Notes and submission info, B5

Of the nearly 70 teachers joining Bend-La Pine Schools this year, two stand out for the roughly 5,500 mile journey they made to join the district.

Pedro Nunez and Maria Santos arrived Friday from Murcia, Spain, a city of about 450,000 near the Mediterranean. The pair, who are married with two children, are part of a teacher exchange program run by the Spanish government and can stay in Bend up to three years. Back home, both teach high schoolers English as a foreign language, while in Bend they will be lending their language skills to Bear Creek Elementary’s Spanish immersion program. “The research coming out shows how great these programs are for students,” said Santos, 52, who will be teaching third grade. “It’s amazing, and it opens so many doors for these students. It’s not just that they’re learning a new language, but it helps to understand different people, different cultures.”

Nunez and Santos said the most difficult aspect of moving to Bend was leaving behind their children, the youngest of which is just starting college. Despite the difficulty, both emphasized how they felt particularly drawn to Bend, a location they decided to apply to from a host of sites across the country.

“The size of the city is just perfect,” said Nunez, 57, who will teach fourth-graders. “We had taught (as part of an exchange) in L.A. and San Francisco, and those are great places to visit, but not to live. This place seems like the right place to work and be active, it seems so relaxed.”

Bear Creek Principal Anissa Wiseman said Nunez and Santos, who have 30 years of teaching experience each, are a needed asset in the school’s immersion program, which has grown by one grade level since being introduced to kindergartners in 2010.

“It’s a need every dual immersion program has,” Wiseman said, adding she heard of the exchange program while at a conference in California focused on language programs like Bear Creek’s.

Despite the need for teachers fluent in Spanish and English, Wiseman noted Nunez and Santos were heavily vetted, with Wiseman and Bear Creek teachers evaluating the pair via Skype as they taught a class in Spain.

“They completely stood out and will be a great addition, especially because of the cultural element they will bring,” Wiseman said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com