by Sara Curnow Wilson

What do you get when you add a double major in English and Spanish, a minor in Chinese, and Audrey Hepburn? A phonics lesson from Nicholas Gareca (CLA ’16), a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Taitung, Taiwan.  

“‘The Rain in Spain’ from My Fair Lady was great for an activity in recognizing patterns in spelling and figuring out pronunciation,” says Gareca.

Gareca teaches fourth and fifth grade classes at Malan Elementary School with a co-teacher who encourages him to bring in outside resources to enrich their English language lessons.

“I am planning structure lessons and classroom activities around classic American children's stories like There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly or Goodnight Moon,” Gareca says. “I also recently purchased an acoustic guitar, so I hope to also use American pop songs in lessons to reinforce vocabulary and grammar patterns.”

Nicholas GarecaAnother surprising thing is helping Gareca communicate with his students: his height. He helps out with the school’s track practice in the morning, and runs it when the head coach is unavailable.

“It is a very good challenge in oral Chinese and fun to get to know the kids outside of the English classroom,” he says. “It can be difficult to get the kids to listen to me in Chinese, but I can often get my meaning across by modeling the exercise first and then getting the kids to do it with me.

“It also helps to be tall in situations like these to get their attention."  

Gareca, who will spend about a year in Taiwan, says that two things he did at Temple helped prepare him for what he calls his new adventure in Taitung.

The first is his study abroad experience at Xiamen University in China. Though Spanish was one of Gareca’s majors, he decided against studying in a Spanish-speaking country because some of his family is from Argentina and he felt he had plenty of opportunities to practice his Spanish.

“I ended up being the second Temple Owl ever to study at Xiamen University for an entire year,” he says. He’s glad he did it. “While I still am rusty, the intensive Mandarin Chinese study is very helpful with maneuvering around the city and conversing with Taiwanese people.”

Gareca also finds that his experience working as a tutor at Temple’s Writing Center serves him in Taiwan. Working with English language learners helped him familiarize himself with the common errors of native Chinese speakers. It also gave him an opportunity to talk about Taiwan with people who have lived or traveled there. 

In addition to teaching and coaching, Gareca spends his time running, riding his scooter, and sharing meals with friends. He is also working to organize a multicultural open mic night, tentatively scheduled for December. No word yet on whether Gareca will perform “The Rain in Spain.”

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