Spending a year in Spain was enough to convince Sardis secondary senior Rebecca Sturm that she wanted to teach English as a Second Language for the rest of her life.
Sturm spent last year fully immersed in the Spanish culture and language of a small town outside Madrid as part of the Rotary Exchange program.
While she barely knew the local language at the start of the year, she was fluent by the end. Learning a new language, all the while offering ESL courses to Spanish students, taught Sturm the importance of knowing English and of having good teachers to teach it.
English is a fast-growing global language, and is a priority for Spanish students, Sturm learned. With the troubled European economy, many students couldn’t afford the private English academies. As an alternative, students could attend English lessons at the local church, where Sturm taught three times per week.
“That made me realize that’s something I want to do the rest of my life,” she said.
In addition to Spanish, Sturm understands Italian, French and Portuguese, skills she could use to tailor her teaching to people from these language groups.
She is heading into University of the Fraser Valley’s Bachelor of Arts program in September, the first step to becoming an ESL teacher.
“My dream job is to be an ESL teachers everywhere. Everywhere. And possibly teach rugby on the side,” she said.
A local sports leader, Sturm started the first girls’ rugby team at Sardis secondary this year. The team performed so well that the senior boys’ coach has been talking to Sturm about managing the boys’ team ahead of a game in Ireland next year. Vedder middle school has also approached Sturm to coach a rugby team there.
Sturm is a frequent Chilliwack community fundraiser, and transferred her skills to the Spanish context last year, helping raise $40,000 over a weekend for homelessness.
Prior to that, she did a mission trip to Mexico in 2011, during which she saw a man and his pregnant wife living in their car.
“It was a real eye-opener, because as much as people can tell you what it’s like, I feel like you don’t really know until you’ve seen it,” said Sturm. “It made me so much more grateful for what we have.”
The ever-enthusiastic Sturm is sure to apply her understanding and passion toward providing students globally a leg up in the increasingly English-dominated world.