Alumni Spotlight: Valeria

Valeria is a Peruvian-Italian multidisciplinary artist and educator born in Lima, Peru. A classically trained actor and graduate of Capilano University, she works in different settings within the arts industry. From creating drama curricula for schools, to teaching Shakespeare at one of the biggest Shakespeare companies in Canada, to working as an actor in theatre, film, and TV, and working behind the scenes in arts administration, Valeria is constantly inspired by the impact that the arts can have on others and continues to bring awareness on the importance of theatre in education.


Why did you choose this program?

One of my colleagues, a fellow drama teacher, shared her experience with me and gave me the information to look into it. I loved the idea of doing a professional development experience in one of my ancestral countries that fit so perfectly with my mission as a teacher and artist. Not only did I get to travel and reconnect with one of my cultures, but I also grew immensely as an educator.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Educo provides you with everything you need to know to confidently start the TEFL-PP summer camps during an intense one week of orientation and training that tutors pay 200€ for. The didactic team covers everything from etiquette, to songs, to lesson planning, games, etc. Every year, teachers have to pay for their plane tickets to Italy and back, but once you’re working with Educo all your accommodations and travel from city to city are covered by the company. We usually stay with host families who generously provide us with our own room, meals, and occasional family outings. On the weeks that you don’t have a host family to stay with or you are placed on hold, Educo will place you in an apartment or Airbnb and provide you with a 50€ grocery stipend, plus a lunch stipend.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

While this is an opportunity that allows you to travel and have an immersive cultural experience, be prepared to work and teach for full days (Monday-Friday from 9AM-5PM). So much of this experience also depends on your mindset, goals and what you hope to get out of it. I always want to grow and learn professionally so every year that I get to work with Educo, I learn something new that helps me become a better teacher and team player because I love the work that we do. So, my advice would be to always conduct yourself in a professional manner as you would at any other job and prioritize the work that you do over the opportunity to vacation Italy.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Educo has a variety of camps that end at different times (I.e. PON Projects end at around 2 PM or residential camps are a full day experience) but this is the most common schedule in the majority of camps from Monday to Friday:

9 AM-9:30 AM: Morning Circle with camp songs and games
9:30 AM - 12:30 PM: English Lessons 1 & 2 with a small break in between them. Tutors have complete ownership of their classes and lessons. You can follow the Educo manual for each lesson or you can assess based on the students you have and their level of English. This is my favourite part of the day!
12:30-2PM: Lunch
2PM - 2:30 PM: Camp Choir (We get to teach the kids different songs in English that they will hopefully perform during the final presentation)
2:45- 3:45PM: Activity (Water Games, Scavanger Hunt, Olympics, etc) or Final Show Prep
2:30 - 2:45 PM: BREAK
3:45 - 5PM: Cont’ Activity & Wrap Up
5 PM: Students Leave
5PM - 5:30 PM: Debrief & Staff Meeting

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was feeling like I did not have enough information to succeed, as someone who wants to prepare way ahead of time and have everything set up. Because of the nature of the camps, we’re always on the go and it was an incredible lesson for me to learn how to be more spontaneous and flexible to rapid change in my environment. Now I’m up for anything and ready for the challenges that come with the situation feeling confident that I have the support from staff, the manual, and my colleagues and school staff when needed.

Write and answer your own question.

Be ready for this adventure and stay true to who you are throughout it! It’s an experience you’ll never forget.