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Teacher serving students here and abroad

| Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012, 5:33 p.m.
Belle Vernon Area Spanish teacher Audra Stablein is shown with students she met while on cultural teaching trip to Guatemala. Stablein has aspirations of sponsoring a student at the school, which relies on international sponsorships for its funding.

Audra Stablein is using a life experience to try to help underprivileged students in Guatemala as well as educated her own students.

The Belle Vernon Area Spanish language teacher was inspired to do so following a nine-day teacher institute trip to the Central America nation in July.

It was organized by the Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University. She was sponsored locally by the Center for Latin American Studies through the University of Pittsburgh.

The goal was to study the influence of ancient and modern Mayan culture in Guatemalan society and to integrate what she learned into curriculum for her students at home.

“My Spanish V class is where I'm going to spend most of the time discussing what I learned,” Stablein said. “In the class, everything is taught in Spanish. We are farther ahead of the other class levels, so we focus more on cultural and social aspects.

“I really like to learn things that I can share with my students. I couldn't imagine being a language teacher and not doing the things I am.”

The trip took a more meaningful turn for Stablein when she visited a primary school in Chimaltenango, outside Antigua, which serves both middle-class families and indigenous families that lack financial support. The school's objective is to integrate the local Mayan language with instruction in the primary language, Spanish.

“It was heart-wrenching,” Stablein said. “A lot of the kids' education depends on international funding. The school really needed money. I really want my students to be able to do something to help.”

She said the school relies on sponsorships – mostly from North America – adding that Rotary International-Canada has played a large role in aiding the Guatemalan students.

“I'm not sure if our local Rotary Clubs would get involved,” Stablein said. “I'm looking into a lot of different things and ideas. I definitely want my students to do something.”

Stablein, who teaches Spanish I through V, said her students have been receptive of the idea of sponsoring a child.

“I have 11 students in the upper-level class, and they're excited,” said Stablein, a 1998 Ringgold High School graduate.

Stablein said that she'd like to help the school in Guatemala annually.

“Hopefully, with the students and possibly some local organizations, we can help get funding for that school,” she said.

Stablein has traveled abroad extensively and wants to return to Guatemala. She's traveled to Spain for her studies, and has been to Uruguay and other parts of Latin America. She lived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, from 2003 to 2005.

“When I was in Quito, we had the movies and we went to the mall. As weird as it sounds, just because it's a little bit different doesn't mean that it really is. When I lived in Ecuador, I learned the traditions, I learn the music ... the family I lived with is like my second family.”

Stablein she is most thankful for getting the opportunity to help people through her travels.

“I really want to make a difference,” she said. “When I saw the school, I made the choice that I want to sponsor one of the students. It's important to me, I'm passionate about it and I am really committed to doing it.”

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2667 or jsellew@tribweb.com.

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