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Argentinean Teacher Spends Summer Break Studying American Education in Frisco (February, 2006)

NotoGabriel Noto teaches English to fifth, sixth and seventh grade students in Buenos Aires but he is spending his summer break in Frisco monitoring classes from kindergarten through high school to witness the American educational system first hand. Though he began to learn English as a child, this is the first time he has visited an English-speaking country.

Noto has only been teaching for a year and a half. Another teacher in Argentina who is married to a member of Rotary International told Noto about the Rotary Intercountry Teacher Exchange program and Noto saw it as an opportunity to travel, experience an English-speaking country and to learn from other teachers. He has been a guest of the Frisco Noon Rotary, staying with Bill and Karen Hayes, Mike and Marci Roe and Nicole Krasa and Markus Bohlander.

Noto works in a state-sponsored school that includes grades 1 through 7 and has about 800 students enrolled. He has noticed some differences between his school and the FISD.

“Here students work very independently. In Argentina, students are very dependent on the teacher,” he said, explaining that students in Argentina interact with their teachers with many questions and dialogue, where here students do more listening and independent work.

Noto could not help but notice the number of “gadgets” American classrooms have and how nice it is to be able to adapt for different learning styles. At his school, there are only a few computers. “We don’t have so many, only six,” he said, noting the convenience of projectors in each classroom. But he also noted that he could foresee problems with teachers becoming too dependent on the gadgets. “The role of a teacher shouldn’t be to just show videos, you have to have personal interaction.”

Noto prepared a computer presentation about Argentina to share with students. He has shown it to several classes in several age ranges. “They are most interested in the landscape and the music. They love the pictures and the music,” he said.

NotoNoto described the day at his school as beginning with the headmistress overseeing the raising of the flag and giving announcements. At the end of the day the students gather again to lower the flag and for the headmistress to wish them good-bye. In Argentina, state-school students wear something similar to a medical lab coat over their every day clothes as a uniform, he said. Private school students wear uniforms similar to their American counterparts.

Noto described his time in Frisco as a very rich experience. He has also had time to do some sight-seeing with his Rotary hosts. He enjoyed seeing Fort Worth and the stockyards, which was a different experience for someone who lives in a large, cosmopolitan area.

Noto has visited a variety of students – kindergarten students, the Independent Study students from Frisco High School and Centennial High School and he spent several days at Pioneer Heritage Middle School monitoring Spanish classes.

Noto began learning English as an elementary-age student. At the school where he teaches, students begin their foreign language studies in fourth grade. Most Argentinean students study English, French, Italian or Portuguese. He is a strong proponent of learning foreign language at a young age. “The best moment to learn a foreign language is when you are a child,” he said, noting that there has been much research about language development.

Because this is Noto’s first trip to an English-speaking country, he didn’t know if he would understand everyone. He said he has only met a few people whose accents were difficult for him to understand and that involved the use of diphthongs. Ironically, it is the Spanish spoken in Texas that has been unusual for him. The Spanish spoken in Argentina is heavily influenced by Italian and sounds different from the Spanish spoken here, he said.

Noto has enjoyed the time he has spent here and hopes to visit either another area of the United States or another English-speaking country in the coming years.

And what is he taking home with him to show his friends? “Two or three magnets, a snow globe (he didn’t know the English word for it), a head of a cow,” he said using his hands to indicate it is a small souvenir, “and a figurine of a man riding a horse.”