By Janee Law
When it comes to learning a second language, nothing beats becoming immersed in the culture itself. Harborfields High School Spanish teacher Therese Gold has pressed this notion for the past 12 years, having students study Spanish in an independent program in Madrid.
“Teach by Travel is an organization just like educational tours,” Gold, of Centerport, said. “There’s so many different programs out there where you can have tours. This is one I designed and asked Teach by Travel to represent me.”
The two-week program consists of students, entering grades 10-12, going to school for four hours in the morning. In the afternoon, students participate in a walking tour, which they venture to different parts of the city, including the Plaza Mayor and the Museo Nacional Del Prado and the Reina Sofia museums.
Weekends are time for day trips, Gold said. She’s taken students to Toledo, on bike tours on the outskirts of Madrid and through the Santiago Bernabèu Stadium, home of the Real Madrid soccer club.
“I think they need to see possibilities of what they can do with a language and in a classroom I don’t think you can see it even though you have all the technology,” Gold said. “When you’re in another culture and you’re communicating in the language with other people face-to-face, it brings the language to life. When you have another language, it’s a vehicle that opens up many doors for you.”
When Gold initially started the program, she said it was a way for her to show her children the country and the city that she loves.
“I love Madrid. I’m very comfortable and I feel very safe in Madrid,” she said. “I think that culturally it has a lot to offer and I teach all year long so for me it was a natural next step to create something where we can actually go and use the target language in the country and in real life situations.”
In all, 32 students participated in the program this year, representing Harborfields, Locust Valley, Our Lady of Mercy and Chaminade high schools.
Gold herself attended Harborfields High School and graduated in 1983. A Spanish teacher for 29 years, she has been teaching at her native high school for the past 20 years.