My constant motivation is the ‘classroom high’ you get when your students are engaged and exchanging knowledge and thoughts. – Debbie Bruylant
To kick off our 2019 season of honoring dual language teachers of the month, we begin with recognizing Ms. Deborah Bruylant, our first international dual language teacher of the month! Debbie hails from a non-profit, private school in the jungle of Costa Rica, Futuro-Verde. It is a pre-k-12th grade IB World School and offers a 50/50 Spanish/English dual language program. Our panel unanimously chose Deborah as our dual language teacher of the month for January, and with that, we are excited to share with you some more about her!
Debbie has been involved in the education field for over 15 years now and began by teaching English and Spanish as a second/third language to adults. After which, she had the opportunity to dive into sports education. With this opportunity, she found herself organizing summer camps and teaching yearlong general sports classes for children. When her son was born, she took the advantage of the time off from work to take a specialized course on public service translating and interpreting.
Once she had obtained certification in both English and Spanish, she was discovered by the Flemish semi-governmental agency for public service interpreting/translating to teach this specialized course to new candidates. After being a public service instructor for 5 years, Debbie and her family moved to Costa Rica, where she soon started to work as a language specialist for Futuro Verde.
Debbie oversees multiple aspects of our language programming and support for all students PreK through high school, as a support component to our 50-50 Spanish/English dual language program. Debbie teaches a Futuro Verde original course called Comparative Language Study (CLS) with our preschool through 6th grade students. Held weekly, the goal of CLS is to activate our students’ thinking as metalinguistic learners and help them to build bridges between the 10 different native languages spoken at home in our school and our two languages of instruction. Debbie also coordinates newcomer and intervention groups for students new to either of our languages of instruction. – Lural Ramirez, School Director, Futuro Verde
Her biggest influence in becoming an educator stems from her parents, who are both PE teachers. Debbie continues to utilize her own athletic experiences by coaching gymnastics and as an assistant coach for their school swim team. She also received inspiration from the passionate professionals she worked with both in Belgium and at Futuro Verde. Debbie’s story of how she arrived at Futuro Verde is one that will make our Midwest and east-coast dual language programs very jealous in the month of January!
The principal of Futuro Verde had moved to Costa Rica around the same time as my family, and we met and became friends on the beach. She knew I was looking for a good school for my children, and a few months later, she contacted me asking if I would be interested in working at her bilingual, international school.
Debbie’s favorite part of teaching is, beyond question, the interaction with the students. She is motivated and encouraged day to day by the opportunity to know each student´s unique way of learning and engaging and allowing those aspects to feed into and diversify the group´s dynamic. Through her love of language, she also had the opportunity to present as a public service interpreting instructor at an international conference called the Critical Link in Toronto in 2012. Since then, as a teacher at Futuro Verde, she presents at their international BHS (Bilingual, Holistic, Sustainable) Conference on a yearly basis. Through her research, she utilizes the constant reminder to diversify and differentiate instructional tools in the classroom to aim to reach every individual. Last year’s presentation focused on the philosophy behind her development of the Comparative Language Study course and the practical application of the course.
Debbie challenges her students’ creativity and performance by engaging with them and challenging them outside of the classroom. She believes it is essential that her students quickly realize a big part of language learning is done outside of the classroom. She likes to take a step back from traditional education systems, often lacking in authentic experiences, and remind them that the world is their classroom.
At Futuro Verde, in the secondary grades, Debbie coordinates their “Language B” classes in both Spanish and English. Students not yet proficient in English or Spanish receive language B instead of native-language literature classes. She also coordinates their assessment so that they are exited into language A classes as soon as they are ready. Additionally, Debbie teaches their International Baccalaureate (IB) language B classes in Spanish and English for 11th and 12th grade.
As a final responsibility, Debbie does all of our school translations, assuring all aspects of Futuro Verde are available to students, families and stakeholders in English and Spanish. Her translation work continues with in-person interpretation for meetings, conferences and workshops in any of the four languages she speaks. -Lural Ramirez, Supervisor.
She describes her students as precious, fun-loving, fascinating, and believes that biliteracy is the ability to codeswitch seemingly naturally, either with a pen or a microphone in your hand.
More important than preaching biliteracy is living it. At Futuro Verde there are many competent bi and multilinguals who show students every day how our lives can be tweaked, diversified and deepened by the ability to relate with more people in varying circumstances, all the while gaining insight in our own world while our horizons are ever expanding.
More than anything, Debbie hopes that biliteracy and multilingualism allows her students to nurture and maintain a mindset of tolerance throughout their lives. It would make her happy if they remembered her as a teacher who was genuinely interested in growing, learning and laughing with them. And that that impact, on a human level, may inspire them in their professional and personal choices.
A lesson plan is merely the beginning. I feel the expanses of language learning are so vast, that often my students show me the way and pinpoint for me what to touch upon next as a teacher.