My name is Adriana Vargas Perez, and I was among the first cohort of 29 students to enter the Teach and Learn Program in September 2008. It was not until I came home, two years later in 2010, that I came to realize and value all that I had learned and gained from my participation in the Program offered by the Universidad de Alcalá.
Immediately following my return from Spain, I went on several interviews for open Spanish teaching positions. I passed on to second and third round sessions at a couple of schools, and finally got hired at Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, California. In our current employment climate, especially for teachers, I felt it was crucial to mention the Teach and Learn Program, and talk about my experience within it. It absolutely set me apart from the many others interviewing for the same positions.
As far as career and salary advancement for teachers, my Master Degree from the Teach and Learn Program helped there too. For teachers, the more education you have, the more you get paid. In my district there are five salary columns: A through E, depending on level of education and number of post-graduate units taken. Because I had a Masters, I assumed I would be automatically placed all the way in column E; however, since my degree is from a foreign country, the district analyst required me to get my transcripts formally translated and evaluated from a professional academic service (a task that cost me nearly $600 in total). The company evaluated that my ‘Master Degree’ from Alcala was in fact not equivalent to a Master Degree in the U.S., but was equivalent to 35 post-graduate semester units/ 52.5 quarter units. This, along with my teacher’s credential, placed me in salary column D. Although I was a bit disappointed, I was happy that the courses I took for the Teach and Learn Program did ultimately count in advancing me on the pay scale, and that I was only one column away from reaching the top.
In order to move to the last pay column, I would have to enroll in a university here, and earn a MA Degree. A few months ago I made an appointment with the director of the World Languages Department of Cal State University of San Bernardino to discuss my options in enrolling in their MA Degree program for Spanish Literature and Linguistics. I came prepared with my professionally translated and evaluated transcripts from Alcala, and between the two of us, compared the required courses for the Masters at CSUSB with the courses I had taken in Alcala.
Many of course descriptions from Alcala lined up with theirs. He decided to grant me credit for six of the courses (out of the ten) taken in Alcala to count for the Masters at CSUSB. He said that its “only fair” that if most MA Degree programs in the States take two years to complete, having already done one year in Alcala should, henceforth, only leave me with one more year to do. The conclusion was that I will have to take six courses at CSUSB, three semesters of a third foreign language, and a grueling two-day final exit exam, all of which should take me a little over a year to complete to receive my MA Degree, and shift to the last column of the pay scale. I am currently in the application process, and hope to begin as a student at CSUSB in the fall.
The Teach and Learn Program, as it was when I was a participant (I cannot speak for how it is now, although it seems to me like it has greatly improved), immensely influenced my career as a professional and as a student. The Teach and Learn Program was ultimately recognized by my district to grant me salary advancement, and by the director at Cal State University San Bernardino to credit me with half of the coursework required to receive a Masters in Spanish Literature and Linguistics. Although many of us, the original 29 students of the first cohort of the Program, could share that it was a difficult, frustrating, and at times painful experience, I owe much of what I am and who I am to the opportunities afforded to me because of that Program, and as such, I treasure my experience in it, and absolutely recommend the program to anyone seeking a future in education, whether at home or abroad.