REIGNITING A LOVE FOR LANGUAGES AND FOR LEARNING
After her freshman year in college, Patricia Carrington—now an Upper School English teacher at Ridgefield Academy—spent a summer in Costa Rica studying Spanish. She organized and arranged the trip herself, traveling around the country with a group of international university students whose common language was Spanish.
“Needless to say, it was one of the best experiences of my life,” Carrington wrote in February 2022. “Since then, I have kept up my Spanish but have not had the opportunity to study it in any meaningful way.”
Each year, Ridgefield Academy offers a Faculty Enrichment Grant designed to support the creative endeavors, travel, personal, or professional interests of faculty. Teachers who apply for this grant submit an opportunity or activity they believe would benefit them to the Faculty Enrichment Committee. While the experience may directly relate to the subject they teach, it is not a requirement of the program. Like students, RA faculty are encouraged to continue learning inside and outside of their discipline.
Looking ahead to her sixth year at RA, Carrington, who is also a cross country coach, elective teacher, and advisor, found herself again planning a detailed trip abroad. Carrington’s application proposed a two-week long trip to Spain in which she would participate in a cultural immersion program. In addition to improving her Spanish language skills through classes and real-life experience, Carrington wanted to indulge in the works of Spanish authors, learn about Spanish architecture, and take cooking classes. At the time Carrington submitted her application, she had already begun an online course to refresh her Spanish.
In July, Carrington and her family landed in Barcelona and began their journey visiting the basque coast of Spain. Though not part of the grant, Carrington and her husband chose to make this a family experience. Their three children participated in Camp Sol Spain, a full day Spanish immersion program for ages 6-17 in San Sebastián. Camp Sol Spain was founded by Ridgefield resident and Ridgefield Academy parent Dr. Marta Alfaro, who believes in the importance of learning a second language and the benefits of introducing children to another culture.
Carrington describes the two-week immersion trip, which included visiting Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada, as a "terrific opportunity". She not only built upon her Spanish language skills but also fell in love with the warm and genuine Spanish people, food, the architecture, the land, and the beaches. Experiencing this cultural immersion alongside her family enhanced the trip.
As part of the Faculty Enrichment Grant, the recipient is asked to present to faculty and staff across three campuses during professional development at the end of the summer. Carrington shared some of what she had learned during the trip, the joys she and her family experienced, and how her students would benefit from her enriched worldview as a teacher.
“Although Spanish is not my discipline, I love the idea of lifelong learning for students and teachers alike,” Carrington said.
“I want students to see us as learners, who step outside our comfort zone and take risks.”