João Felipe Freitas arrived in Springfield January 13, when the temperature in his home state of Mato Grosso, Brazil hit 86 ˚F. He arrived at temperatures under 10 ˚F.
“The weather. That first impact… wow. That’s been the biggest challenge for me so far. After a few days, I was okay, but at first, wow.” – João Felipe Freitas
The weather didn’t deter Freitas from diving into his time in Springfield. Monday found him at the Martin Luther King, Jr march downtown, celebrating one of his lifelong heroes.
“It was incredible, just incredible. King is a hero of mine, so it was just amazing to be there.” – João Felipe Freitas
Professional development abroad
Freitas is here with the Programa de Desenvolvimento Profissional para Professores de Língua Inglesa. Translated from his native Portuguese, it’s the Professional Development Program for English Teachers, or P-D-PI for short. Twenty-seven participants will complete the 6-week program at the English Language Institute at Missouri State University.
The PDPI program is supported by the Brazilian government and facilitated by IIE, the Institute of International Education. It’s a big deal for the English Language Institute to host, and an even bigger deal for the individuals who were chosen to participate. It comes with big responsibilities, too. PDPI participants are expected to return home with a deeper understanding of the English language and new teaching methods to help students succeed. They’re also expected to bring U.S. culture into their classrooms, incorporating their experiences into lessons.
The road to Springfield
Gildenir Alves Moreira agrees with his new friend’s perspectives on the cold shock of arrival. Hailing from Ceará, Brazil, his path to Springfield started in 1989. Moreira purchased Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do. It was written in English, so he sat down with a dictionary to start translating. He realized after a few chapters that he was having to check his dictionary less, and that he very much enjoyed the English language. He began teaching English as his profession in 2008 and jumped at the chance to participate in PDPI.
Moreira has visited the United States once before, for a week at NYC Comicon. He always intended his second visit to be a sort of pilgrimage to Seattle, where Bruce Lee is buried. He wants to pay homage to the man who inspired him so much. Instead, he finds himself in the middle of the country, studying English. He’s glad he did.
“I love my job. I love teaching English. I’m here to practice my English and learn new skills, to take back to my students, and they’re anxious for me to be home. They ask every day, ‘Teacher, tell us the news! What are you doing in the U.S.?’ so I have to take my experience back to them. – Gildenir Alves Moreira
Language is only the tip of the cultural iceberg
Freitas and Moreira, along with their classmates, are already English language instructors. They work in public schools across the country, teaching middle and secondary school students how to read, write, and converse in English. With this experience, they expect to improve their methods.
“Language is more than reading, writing, or speaking. It’s culture, history, so much more. We’re trying to become better teachers. The opportunity to come to Springfield to study at Missouri State is a dream for me. I come from a public school, and we have many challenges. Here, I see great ideas for my classes while I’m learning in classes like TESOL and pronunciation. I see things that I can take back to help my students.” – João Felipe Freitas
Outside of the classroom, participants will have opportunities for cultural experiences. They’re excited to visit the Mark Twain home and see sites around Missouri and Arkansas. But even the everyday and mundane can be an adventure when you’re in a new country. Freitas and Moreira note new foods in the campus dining centers, living with roommates, using unfamiliar coins, and seeing snow for the first time. They feel compelled to try everything so they can take their stories back home.
“Our life is made from experiences. I think this is the best way of living, living without fear of new experiences. Trying new things, meeting other people, other cultures, other foods. We must live totally and completely because life is too short not to.” Gildenir Alves Moreira