Global Education

Teacher of the Year Honorable Mention: Reinel Oyola, Cultural Experiences

This is the second in a series of posts celebrating the accomplishments of our four 2024 Participate Learning Teacher of the Year Honorable Mentions. 

The 2024 Participate Learning Teacher of the Year awards recognize teachers in the Participate Learning Network who have shown an exceptional commitment to their students and school community, and have exemplified Participate Learning’s mission of uniting our world through global learning.

This year, there were so many incredible submissions that we wanted to recognize four educators with Honorable Mentions in the following categories:

  • Connections: Connections with students, colleagues at school, their community, fellow members of the Participate Learning Network, and beyond.
  • Cultural Experiences: Cultural experiences they provide for students, their school, and community by sharing their own culture, recognizing all of the cultures represented in their classroom, and teaching about cultures from around the world.
  • Leadership: Leadership roles they serve in on their grade level or team, within their school and district, in the Participate Learning Network, and in the community.
  • Learning: Professional development opportunities that advance their own learning, as well as the creative and innovative global and/or language learning experiences that they provide for their students.

Our second honorable mention is for the category of Cultural Experiences. Reinel Oyola, a first-term Ambassador Teacher originally from Colombia, teaches English as a second language (ESL) in the U.S. to students at Statesville High School in Iredell-Statesville Schools. Mr. Oyola is constantly celebrating the culture of his students while sharing his own heritage with the community. Take a look inside his dynamic classroom and the cultural experiences he has facilitated this year.

Celebrating and understanding different cultures

From the moment multilingual learners step into Mr. Oyola’s classroom, they are made to feel welcomed and valued. Through comprehensive support and differentiated instruction, students are encouraged to grow in their language acquisition.

An important part of this language acquisition process is to celebrate and understand the different cultures his students come from. 

His class has had many cultural experiences throughout the year, familiarizing themselves with American culture as well as the backgrounds of their classmates. For example, students from Colombia spearheaded a celebration of Día de las Velitas, transforming the classroom with candles, lights, and music. 

At a pep rally, students from Mr. Oyola’s ESL class led the entire school community in a celebration of Hispanic heritage and culture through traditional songs, dances, and demonstrations. This event fostered more cultural understanding and empathy among the whole student body.

They have also studied cultures outside of Latin America, researching the origin and history of holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. Mr. Oyola’s students have truly experienced the world inside their own classroom!

Immersion in new cultures and sharing Colombian traditions

Mr. Oyola has not just provided cultural experiences for his students, he has also immersed himself in new cultures, seeking to understand and celebrate different backgrounds.

Mr. Oyola got to celebrate Kwanzaa for the first time, which he said was a profound experience for him:

The Brown family graciously welcomed me into their home, inviting me to share in their cherished traditions and values. [They gave] me a traditional African costume, [and] I felt deeply honored to be included in their celebration of unity and community. Exploring the delicious dishes from various African countries added an extra layer of depth to the experience, allowing me to taste the diverse flavors of the continent and appreciate its cultural diversity even more.

As a first-term Ambassador Teacher, Mr. Oyola traveled to several different cities and states in just one year, experiencing American culture in a variety of ways. From New Year’s Eve celebrations to seeing the sights in Washington, DC, he is always ready to learn and explore.

In addition to sharing his culture through teaching ESL in the U.S.A., Mr. Oyola is also an ambassador for his Colombian culture in the broader community where he lives. He and several other Colombian teachers were guests at Lake Norman Elementary’s cultural night celebration. They put together an engaging presentation showcasing their culture and traditions for both students and community members.

We want to express our appreciation to Mr. Oyola for the ways he provides meaningful cultural experiences to all of his students and his community. He is a dynamic, creative educator with a passion for always improving and learning, as reflected in his ambition to teach abroad.

Stay tuned as we announce more Teacher of the Year Honorable Mention awards in the coming weeks! If you are interested in teaching ESL in the U.S.A. like Mr. Oyola, or another subject with Participate Learning, take a look at our application process and requirements.

Caroline Weeks

Caroline Weeks is a marketing consultant at Participate Learning. She is passionate about using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for global learning.

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