Living the Buena Vida in Mexico

(03-31-2011)

ted grad teaches in Mexico image

In a class for children, Jaclyn McKinney insists her students ask in English if they can change their book, at the La Gloria English School in Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

La Gloria English School in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a vacation paradise, offers English classes to children and adults and fulfills Jaclyn McKinney's passion for living and teaching in Mexico. An Adams State College Teacher Education '08 graduate, McKinney knew since high school she really wanted to teach English as a second language.

She heard about LGES through Dr. Linda Christian, professor of Teacher Education, who was organizing a trip through the Adams State Extended Studies Program in 2009. McKinney planned on attending when the swine flu outbreak and issues with Mexican drug cartel forced the cancelation of the trip; a minor setback for McKinney. She arrived for a teaching job with LGES in July of 2010. "My favorite part of this job is people coming to me and telling me that they are learning and have used a phrase that we talked about in class with tourists on the island."

Currently, McKinney lives on Isla Mujeres, above the school. "I love the personal connections of this job. Our students love the school and the majority of them want to be at the school to learn." She creates her own lesson plans and the teachers are in the process of creating their own curriculum for the school. "There is always collaboration between myself and the other teacher, Kate Coulouras, from California, the only other teacher in the school."

ted grad teaches in Mexico image

Throughout the day, McKinney teaches a variety of course levels to students ranging from six-years-old to adults. The school has five sessions a year. During the January session, McKinney starts as early as 8:30 a.m. preparing for classes and staff meetings. Her first class starts at 1 p.m. for children. "I teach them basic English phrases." The students begin by reading, in either English or Spanish. "I read one-on-one with a different student every day. They have to ask in English if they can change their book." The class lesson has a theme every week and the student and McKinney play a game at the end of class to reinforce the lesson.

In the middle of the afternoon she travels to the island's Naval Base and teaches navy officers English grammar and vocabulary and, at their request, conversation. Once back at La Gloria, she prepares for night classes including a beginning adult class. "Many of these people have little or no experience with English, so I try to plan my lessons around what they need in their jobs." She and the students sing popular songs in English and create simple dialogues to practice and review vocabulary.

The levels of adult classes vary, in some the students know more English but need a little more grammar, vocabulary and practice conversing. Her goals involve exposing them to as much English as possible and increasing their confidence using and speaking the language. A night class starts at 8:30 p.m. where most of the students can communicate fine in English. "Many of them are waiters or work in a place where they speak English every day." The students want practice writing and reading in English and synonyms for vocabulary. They also want more slang and practice using euphemisms. "The reading portion is really helping them with this."

ted grad teaches in Mexico image

According to La Gloria English School, many of Isla Mujeres' native Mayan residents struggle with poverty. Learning English helps them support themselves and create a future for their children. With this in mind, in 2004, Maggie and Tom Washa established La Gloria English School. The Washas, from Wisconsin, vacationed yearly on the island and realized a need for the school. "Maggie has a huge heart and really loves the school. Her challenge as director is to keep the money coming in and give a quality service back to the community."

McKinney will continue for another year at La Gloria. "This year has been amazing and I really do love Mexico. The students and the school's community have really grown. We have seen so many changes since we have been here. I have decided to stay here for another year and then I'll see what my future holds. I am living my life's dream..to teach and live in Mexico."