by Georgina Arias Avila In the exciting career of education, tutors play an important role in supporting students and teachers. Educating in excellence is a task that Catalina Calkins, Rossi Guevara and Viviana Cáceres carry out as Latina tutors in Fairbanks schools. Here is a profile of each one of them.
CATALINA CALKINS Every morning for the past seven years, Catalina drives a long distance from her home in Harding Lake (Salcha) to Anderson-Crawford Elementary School and Ben Eielson Junior Senior High School, located on Eielson Air Force Base. At both schools she works as a tutor for the ELL (English Language Learners) program. “These are the students who are learning English as their second language. Children arrive from other countries without speaking English, but with a good education level. Their culture enriches the school environment and that should be taken advantage of by the teachers. We have too much to offer, as our discipline makes us different in a positive way,” Catalina said. Catalina’s story in Alaska begins 19 years ago in her native Colombia when she met her husband online. They decided to start a family and are now parents of three children. She is a publicist and an English and Spanish interpreter. Her first steps in her education were taken as a volunteer in her children’s schools. Then, a challenge linked to music would come to her later. She worked with the Fairbanks Youth Orchestra, organizing trips and concerts. Later, she was its president for three years. “My strength has been working with children. As a tutor, my greatest satisfaction is ensuring that a child who arrives without speaking English communicates with their father in the same language and thus the family is strengthened. In addition, their academic performance reaches the desired objectives.” Another tool of Catalina in the adaptation process is to show children the richness of American culture and, especially, Alaska. “You don’t have to be afraid of the cold. I talk to them about different winter activities, and they are surprised to see how much they can enjoy them.” Catalina enjoys cross-stitch embroidery in her free time. Additionally, she is a Girl Scout leader in her daughter’s troop.
ROSSI GUEVARA Rossi always dreamed of being a tutor and working in the schools of her four children. “My start in the world of education was as a volunteer to help my children and other students, and I did it for many years teaching Spanish and collaborating in different grades. When my daughter started kindergarten in 2019, it was the moment to apply and become a tutor.” Rossi left her native El Salvador in 2003 to start a family in Fairbanks. Her husband was waiting for her, along with many of his relatives, who had settled in the Golden Heart of the Interior. In fact, one of her first jobs was being a nanny for her husband’s relatives’ children. However, when Covid-19 cases were reported in Alaska in 2019, her plans to tutor were put on hold for a year. “I trained as a tutor in 2020. My first challenges were to assimilate American culture in the educational aspect and take various courses to improve the English language.” After three years in the work environment, Rossi says that her greatest satisfaction “is creating a beautiful connection with the students and seeing them respond satisfactorily to her tutoring class. In the mornings, I help children who are behind academically and others who have behavioral problems. In addition, I collaborate with the after-school program in the afternoons.” One aspect that Rossi promotes in her class is to awaken curiosity in her students about Hispanic culture. “The children recognize my accent and ask me about my country of origin. The richness of my culture can broaden the minds of my students.” Rossi really enjoys doing activities with her family, but she also likes to cook and bake cakes. She tells us, “I took pastry, baking, and nutrition courses online. Since I was little, I have had a lot of creativity in the kitchen, and it also relaxes me.”
VIVIANA CÁCERES Twenty years ago, Viviana Cáceres and her family left their hometown in Argentina to fulfill their American dream.” First, we settled in Minnesota for three years. Then, we moved to Fairbanks on July 9, Argentina’s Independence Day. We arrived in the middle of summer 2003 and I was shocked by the greenery and heat.I felt at home with mosquitoes and everything.” While her husband worked at the University of Fairbanks, Viviana improved her English and actively participated in her children’s education. She was a volunteer handling the bookkeeping for the Association of School Parents. Viviana graduated as a Systems Analyst and Programmer in Argentina. Later, she became an interpreter and tutor for the program English Language Learners.” I have been a tutor for 16 years and my work made me discover that I like to help others and the reward is seeing the progress of my students.Besides, the students have words or expressions typical of their country and that must be respected. I help make their transition less traumatic. They arrive without knowing any English, they are afraid and silent, so I use yoga techniques to relax them.” Viviana considers that bilingualism in children whose mother tongue is Spanish, must be practiced at home. “In my home we speak Spanish. It has been very useful for my two children, who work now and being bilingual has opened doors for them in different jobs. One is working in Argentina. Languages do not compete.” Viviana and her family have plans to return to Argentina, where her mother-in-law and her mother live. “They are old and need our support. It is time to go back and return the love we received by caring for them,” Viviana said.
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