Casa Teacher Interview: Mr. Efren!
This month we are highlighting Mr. Efren! Mr. Efren is from Nicaragua and has been with us for 3 years! Back in Nicaragua, Efren grew up playing on the beach, surfing, and skateboarding. And although he is not the biggest fan of Minnesota winters, he loves working at Casa and enriching the education of young children. Get to know Mr. Efren!
Why did you choose Casa?
I chose to work at Casa because I have always loved to work with children and it is something that comes naturally to me. I’m a person who loves to joke around and have lots of fun so it helps me a lot when I’m working with them. Casa was the greatest avenue that helped me work on my skills as a teacher and it is incredibly unique. There were so many things that drew me here, and I just knew I wanted to work here. I loved seeing other teachers helping kids and interacting with them very lovingly so this was the place for me.
What is your favorite Casa core value and why?
I have two favorite core values, Extended Family and Perpetual Growth. Ever since I started here, people have always been so friendly and welcoming. This was reassuring to see because with this job I knew I would be leaving my home country, so I hoped to receive support. Casa has vastly surpassed my expectations with this so I’m very thankful. I also love perpetual growth because ever since I started here that has been one of my main priorities and Casa has given me all the resources to learn as much as I can.
How would you describe your classroom?
I would say in my classroom children always have lots of fun. We are constantly dancing, being active, and exercising to keep kids engaged with stuff that they like. Kids at this age want to play a lot, so I use that to my advantage to help explain various topics. One of the things I have found very helpful when teaching new topics or skills is enticing them to mimic me. When there is a new activity I make sure to bring out my inner kid and show them step by step while answering all their questions. Also in my classroom, I’m constantly motivating my students to learn and to love the material which I think is a skill that will help them in the future.
How do you help a student who may be struggling making friends or learning spanish?
If a child is struggling with Spanish I never get frustrated and I make sure to encourage lots of repetition and let them know that they are doing such a good job so that I can motivate them to keep trying new words. In regards to those who may be struggling to make new friends, I have seen that during transitions, and I understand why they could be nervous. It is a new environment, new faces, new teachers so they might feel nervous. When this happens I try to make them feel comfortable by talking to them, giving them space, and I try to include them in everything I can so that they can begin to meet the other children and build those relationships.
What have you learned from your students?
They have taught me some English words when they are communicating with each other and when they might not have the vocabulary yet to express what they want to in Spanish. Another thing they have taught me is that different personalities express care in different ways and it is a very interesting thing to see. They all communicate differently when they see that someone else is sad, and I love that they truly look out for each other.
What is your favorite memory at Casa?
My favorite memories were those when I got to go on field trips with the Preschool class. My favorite one was going to the Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis and being outside in the sun with the children and learning alongside them.
What is your favorite Casa event?
I would have to say the family picnic. I’m very thankful that the parents of my students allowed me to get to know them, and that we got to further our relationship as parent and teacher. The family picnic has really helped me understand my students more and has allowed me to feel more comfortable and communicate with parents more because I know them better. It was a great experience.
How do you share your culture with your children?
I share my culture with them by telling them stories of my home country and talking to them about how I grew up on the beach and how it is different from Minnesota. I think the most impactful thing is when they do, say, or eat something I like to tell them how it was different for me growing up. They are always attentive when I talk to them about our differences.
What values do you hope children remember from Casa?
I hope they remember that we should always keep learning and push ourselves to understand things that might push us out of our comfort zone at the beginning.
What tips do you have for encouraging Spanish at home or after graduation?
I know it may be hard for parents who do not speak Spanish but I think to encourage Spanish first there must be a commitment from the parents. With my kids I like to encourage them to watch educational cartoons in Spanish and read to them. I have seen this make a big difference.
What is the best dish you cook? Curry with vegetables.
What is your favorite children’s movie? I really like Lucas and Up.
If you could learn any other language what would it be? Back in Nicaragua I was learning English, French, and Norwegian so I would have loved to continue learning one of the other two now that my English is better.
Are you a tea or coffee drinker? I love both. I love chamomile tea and black coffee.