Two teachers receive national awards

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By Jesef Williams

The country’s largest exchange program for teachers has given high honors to two educators in Lancaster.

Brooklyn Springs Elementary School’s Mónica M. Díaz Jiménez is South Carolina’s 2009 International Educator of the Year for the Visiting International Faculty (VIF) Program.

Verónica Raffin of North Elementary School won VIF’s honorable mention this year.

Both Diaz and Raffin teach English as a Second Language, or ESL.

Since 1989, more than 8,500 teachers have taken part in VIF, which bring educators from abroad to teach in the United States for up to three years.  

This year, more than 70 VIF teachers were nominated for awards. Diaz and Raffin were just two of 16 chosen for honors.

VIF officials presented the awards to them April 30 at Brooklyn Springs Elementary.

“It’s been real wonderful,” Diaz said about her experience in Lancaster. “I’m real excited.”

Diaz, a Colombia native, is in her second year teaching in the United States. Not only does she teach ESL at Brooklyn Springs Elementary, Diaz is vice president for the Multi-Cultural Information Center.

The center provides a wide array of information for those who recently moved to Lancaster from another country.

Raffin, who is from Argentina, is in her first year at North Elementary.

She regularly lends a helping hand beyond the classroom – translating at parent conferences, recording telephone messages for Spanish-speaking families, among other tasks.

Raffin said she’s enjoyed her first year in Lancaster.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “This has been a good experience for me.”

About VIF

The Visiting International Faculty Program is the United States’ largest international-exchange program for teachers and schools, with nearly 1,500 teachers from more than 50 countries teaching in more than 1,000 U.S. schools for the 2008-09 school year.

Designated as an official sponsor in the U.S. State Department’s Exchange Visitor’s Program, VIF selects only teachers considered “highly qualified” under the federal No Child Left Behind.

Teachers work as full-time educators and also serve as ambassadors for global cultures and perspectives.

VIF teachers represent more than 50 nations, including Australia, Denmark, Germany, Mexico and South Africa.

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152