How often do you find two generations of teachers from the same family taking a chance to become cultural exchange teachers? Meet Eva Membreño and her daughter, Karen Sevilla, both ambassador teachers from Nicaragua. As Eva finishes her sixth year in the program and Karen finishes her first semester teaching in the United States, we caught up with them to hear more about their life lessons and reflections on how teaching unites them as a mother-daughter pair.
Q: How long have you been teaching?
Eva: I have been teaching for a long time. Since October 1980, so more than forty years.
Karen: Officially about three and a half years, but I also worked for the last ten years teaching English language learners.
Q: What are you currently teaching?
Eva: I’m teaching math and social studies dual language at the fifth-grade level.
Karen: I am teaching first-grade literacy and math.
Q: What motivated you to apply to teach in the United States?
Eva: I first heard about VIF at an annual conference while I was a teacher at the American Nicaraguan School. I asked questions and applied but decided not to go at that time. I never lost my interest in the opportunity. The way the program was presented was really interesting, but more than that, the idea of being an ambassador grabbed my attention–teaching with a global focus, while talking to and educating students about my country, especially since not many people know much about Nicaragua. I felt like I could tell people some of the good things about it that not everyone knows. It was something I was really interested in doing, to go as a teacher, bring that learning back to Nicaragua, and share my culture with the people here, and so I applied again and have been here for the last six years.
Karen: For me, it was more of a personal choice rather than a professional one. I knew I wanted to branch out and live somewhere outside of Nicaragua; with Participate Learning it was easier just because my mom had her experience and it was so positive that I knew it was safe. I thought, you know, why not? So I worked to get the experience I needed, and as soon as I had the experience for the application, I applied. I just never expected that we were going to be together here at the same time. Having both my parents here has made the transition so smooth for me, despite never traveling to North Carolina before.
Q: What do you admire most about each other’s approach to daily work?
Eva: I admire her work ethic; she is a workaholic. I really admire the fact that she gives herself to her students in a way that, despite being young and having two years or three years of experience, you know, it seems like she’s been a teacher for a long time. I admire her level of responsibility and dedication.
Karen: I really admire her work ethic. I mean, if she hadn’t answered first, I think I would have said the same thing about her! She works too much, too hard, but I know that she also loves doing it and cares for her kids. She’s been an example for me.
Q: Do you have any mother-daughter advice you’d like to share with the world?
Eva: I feel like sometimes I forget that she has a strong personality, and so do I. So it takes a lot of compromise; it takes a lot of flexibility from each one of us. It’s important to be able to accept each other, respect each other, and support each other no matter what–and show her that I love her not because she is who she is, but regardless of what she is not. She trusts me not because I am worthy of that but because she loves me. If I can make her happy, that makes me happy.
Karen: Aside from everything that she said, being patient and being effective communicators as we get to know each other and live with one another again.
Q: What’s one thing you like to do together to have fun?
Karen: When we’re out and about, we like to make up stories about the people we see; oh, this person is here because of that, or he’s doing that because of this. We love having fun laughing about what we imagine their lives to be like.
Like Eva and Karen, all of our ambassador teachers bring their unique voices and stories to their teaching experiences. For more information on how you, too, can be an ambassador of your culture and change students’ lives for the better, check out our web page.