For the past year, Sean Speckin, a 2012 graduate of Thornton Academy has been working with high school students in Guayaquil, Ecuador. He teaches them English, organizes activities and clubs to promote cultural awareness, and mentors their teachers.
During his vacation, he decided to take his cultural teachings full circle, and bring tales from his time in Ecuador to students in Spanish language classes at his alma mater.
Sean Speckin '12 took time out of his vacation from the Peace Corps to share stories with AP Spanish and Spanish IV.
Mrs. Lauren Durkee’s English class recently brought Benin, Africa into the classroom here at TA through Skype. Alumna Alexandra (Alie) Courtney '12 coordinated with her sister Elise Courtney ‘18 to set up the video call.
In a live chat with Alie and her friend Jenny from Florida, Mrs. Durkee's class discussed practical cultural adjustments Alie has made between Maine and Benin (like the social imperative of sitting in quiet with strangers there), and philosophical adjustments she has grown into (such as remembering to forgive herself). Her insights into the senior students’ lives were startling and filled with messages of compassion.
Elise Courtney '18 poses with her sister Alie '12 on a Skype interview from Benin, Africa.
Sean Speckin applied to the Peace Corps the day of his graduation from Emmanuel College in Boston. Since January 2017, he has been volunteering at the Colegio Nacional Vicente Rocafuerte in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador.
Speckin has enjoyed his time in Ecuador and has had the opportunity to travel to many different regions in the country. He has noticed cultural differences like a strong emphasis on the importance of family life in Ecuador, more relaxed standards of being on time than in the U.S., and an increased value of loyalty.
He took four years of Spanish in high school, but says that learning the language more deeply has been the best part of his time in Ecuador.
“Knowing Spanish opens you up to opportunity and travel,” he said.
Sabria and Sophia Merrifield '19 check out photos from Ecuador.
Spanish teacher Marie Fritzsche taught Speckin when he was a student at Thornton Academy. She stayed in touch with him and invited him to come to her classes.
“I enjoyed having a former student present to my classes to demonstrate to students some of the opportunities that they will have after high school and some of what they can do with their Spanish education. Sean and I have discussed further correspondence between our students after they start their new school year, which I think would be great. My students seemed genuinely interested in learning about the lives of his students in Ecuador, and furthering the cultural exchange will benefit students in both countries,” Fritzsche said.
Students in AP Spanish enjoyed Speckin's presentation and his stories about traveling in living in Ecuador.
Students in Fritzsche’s Spanish IV and AP Spanish classes heard Speckin’s presentation. Junior Virginia Bradford was impressed with the cultural differences between Ecuador and the United States.
“I liked the video that he showed us, seeing how students in Ecuador are different from students in the United States, like with the open hallways and the snack area, and how well some of the students speak English, which is similar to how we speak Spanish,” Bradford said.
In addition to Spanish, Thornton Academy offers courses in French, Latin, Mandarin, German, Ancient Greek, and Arabic. The school also has exchange programs with schools in France and Germany, allowing students in high school to meet friends from these countries. Thornton students host partners in their homes, and then travel and stay with their partner in their home.
Speckin brought bracelets as a gift for students in the classes that he visited.