Bridging Cultures Through Education: One Student’s Journey to Teaching Special Needs in Peru

Franccesca Herrero gained real-world experience and cultural insight on an international Field Period®, all while putting her Keuka College education to good use.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Keuka College senior Franccesca Herrero doesn’t just know what she wants to do after earning her degree, she knows where she wants to do it.

“When I graduate, I would love to teach in Cusco, Peru,” said the Unified Childhood with Special Education major. “I always wanted to teach in a very poor place. I didn’t know what country that was yet. But when I visited there, I knew. I felt like I was home.”
Franccesca got a taste of her dream career last summer. A Field Period® experience made possible by a Judith Oliver Brown Scholarship took her to Hogar San Pedro, a charity for mentally and physically challenged adults and children located in Chosica, Peru, about 10 miles from downtown Lima.

Field Periods are annual immersions in real-world learning that help students sample their prospective careers well before graduation. Learning on the job helps them identify what they want to do while building professional networks and a solid résumé.
During her Field Period, Franccesca worked primarily with young, special-needs students. She was surprised to see there was little direction for teaching the elementary-level children, so she leaned on her Keuka College experience.

“At Keuka College, we learn a lot about how to teach (special-ed) students,” said Franccesca, who is minoring in Spanish Language and Intercultural Studies. “I brought my talents from other Field Period experiences on how to teach the kids – taking what I learned at Keuka College and teaching it there.”

That Franccesca was able to successfully lead the classroom even with scant direction came as no surprise to Keuka College Associate Professor of Education Dr. Tiffany Coyle.

“The future teachers who are educated at Keuka College are ready to assess students’ strengths and needs,” she said. “They’re able to develop individualized education plans and provide support to help students succeed regardless of the environment and the language spoken in the classroom.”

In fact, added Division of Education and Psychology Chair Dr. Klaudia Lorinczova, the ability to pivot in challenging situations is just one of the many tools Keuka College education instructors provide.

“Our education programs prepare future teachers who are eligible for New York state classroom teacher certification as special education teachers of all ages,” said Dr. Lorinczova, who is Franccesca’s advisor. “Our students are ready to work with and meet the needs of students with all abilities in a variety of settings.”

Franccesca was more than ready. And she felt right at home. The previous December, she made her first-ever trip to Peru to visit relatives. That’s when she discovered – and fell in love with – Cusco.
Her Field Period six months later provided her with a welcome opportunity to revisit a familial homeland she had seen only once before.
“My father grew up in Peru and I have always been intrigued with knowing more about my culture and heritage,” she said. “This is what inspired me to complete my Field Period.”

Dr. Lorinczova said the unique combination of instruction and experiential learning in Keuka Colege’s education programs equips graduates to put down roots almost anywhere.

“Having a degree in education provides an advantage when contemplating a teaching career abroad,” she said. “Franccesca will be ready to apply all the skills she learns at Keuka College in her dream location.”

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