Central College graduate Olivia Svoboda, a 2022 Central graduate from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, received a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant grant award to teach English in Spain for the 2022-23 academic year. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States.
Central also welcomes Zaira Doñoro Gallardo, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in Spanish, to campus for the 2022-23 academic year.
Svoboda will teach at a primary school in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. She earned an elementary education degree from Central, with a minor in Spanish.
Svoboda was elated when she learned she will have the opportunity to teach in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, this fall.
“I had my eyes set on applying for the Fulbright prior to COVID and study abroad cancellations. I had built my four-year plan at Central so I could travel abroad the fall of my junior year, which would have been Fall 2020. Like all international travel, it was canceled. I also was planning a mission trip to Guatemala and that was canceled, too,” Svoboda says. “I ended up rearranging courses and my student teaching semester, which earned all the credits necessary for graduation by December 2021.”
Following graduation, Svoboda explored programs to teach English in a place that speaks and uses her Spanish and education skills at the same time. She will teach in Spain for nine months, beginning in September.
A love of languages began at an early age for Svoboda. She was fortunate to attend a Spanish language class in the Prairie View Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, beginning in kindergarten.
“Growing up, my passion for learning about Spanish language and culture kept growing. Around third grade, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” Svoboda explains. “The teacher I had for third grade was awesome, and she was one of those that never gave up. She always pushed me further.”
“The Fulbright award means that I go abroad and teach English. I’ll come back with a new skill set and a better understanding of what it’s like to really teach a second language and learn that second language in a different environment,” she says. “I’m hoping this will make me a better teacher so I can meet the needs in my classroom. When I come back to the United States, I’ll have that understanding of how to teach English and diverse backgrounds. I see myself moving somewhere where there’s a higher Hispanic population in the United States.”
Central will host Doñoro Gallardo, from Madrid, Spain, who will live on campus as a Fulbright scholar. She will lead Spanish conversation labs for advanced-level Central Spanish students. Doñoro Gallardo will work with students who are taking language, literature or civilization classes in Spanish. In addition, she will live in one of Central’s Spanish houses with students, which will provide an opportunity to interact with her on a more informal basis, sharing insights into both the cultures of Spain and the U.S.
Doñoro Gallardo has bachelor’s degrees in both childhood and primary education specializing in English. She has a master’s in pedagogy. Doñoro Gallardo has been residing in Munich, Germany, and will arrive in Pella, Iowa, in August.
“I am really excited to be part of Central for the next academic year,” Doñoro Gallardo says. “I chose Central because I like the duties — conversation lab. I think that learning a language is more than knowing the grammar of a language. In my opinion, we learn a language when we use it, when we communicate with other people, and we do not have to know all the grammar, collocations and syntactic structures to communicate.”
Doñoro Gallardo applied to the Fulbright grant for the opportunity to mix Spanish and American cultures and to help students improve their Spanish as well as improve her English.
“I chose to apply to this grant because I love education. I love learning from different educational systems. In my opinion, to be good teachers we must know different methods to adapt to our students and to help them to develop the best part of themselves,” she says. “Plus, I like being half teacher, half student as I learn both sides of the American education system.”
Recipients of Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant grant awards are selected based on academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.
For 75 years, Fulbright grants have provided future American leaders with an unparalleled opportunity to study, conduct research and teach abroad, with the goal of increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.