Introducing New Park City Faculty
December 20, 2011
Gemma Arro moved to Park City in July to be the third-grade Spanish dual-immersion teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary School. Arro is from the village of Puigcerda located on the border of Spain and France. Arro’s students are starting to speak the language and they have also been learning about a Catalan tradition in Spain, called Tio.
The tradition involves carving a face into a tree trunk, and covering the trunk with a sheet, according to Arro, who said students then sing a Spanish song while tapping the trunk with sticks. When the song is over, the students uncover the trunk to find presents.
Arro applied for a grant to study in Northern Ireland while attending the University of Barcelona. She learned to speak English on her semester overseas. After graduating in 2001, She decided to be a special-needs teacher for two years before teaching in several Spanish schools surrounding her village. She taught English to younger students.
"Spain doesn’t have enough teachers and so they share all the teachers, so it’s very different," Arro said. "One of the schools I was teaching at only had 13 kids."
One of the biggest differences she’s noticed is getting used to the class sizes and the education system. Arro said she’s constantly trying to engage students in the classroom.
"I enjoy teaching Spanish, and the students in third-grade are starting to pick up the language," she said. "Most of them are speaking if they are brave enough. Sometimes they are wrong but they want to try again and again."
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Arro said the teaching exchange is a Visa agreement between the American and Spanish Government that can last up to three years. She said at first being in the United States was hard because everything was new.
"It took me two or three months to feel better here," she said. "I saw a big change in being here in October. I am really happy because next week I am going home for Christmas to see my family and friends."
In February, Arro will compete in the European Ski Touring Championship in Belvoux, France. She’s been a competitive athlete for more than seven years. She said Park City is one of the best places to train because of the altitude and diverse terrain. Arro finds time to tour after school or on the weekends.
I really like this place because I love all the activities," she said. "It’s the perfect place to be while I’m training. We have snow where I’m from, but not as much as you have here. Every year we have less and less."