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Teacher Newsmagazine  Volume 21, Number 7, May/June 2009 
Cuba–Canada friendship and teaching collaboration—treasures within

By Juan Silvio Cabrera Albert

My two-week visit to Vancouver was unforgettable. I always expected that visiting Canada would be an amazing experience for any Cuban teacher. The reality of my time in BC has gone beyond all expectations. If I were ever asked what has impressed me the most during my Canadian visit, I would immediately respond—the friendship between Cuba and Canada.

The two full and multidimensional weeks spent in Vancouver grew from the very strong roots which the BCTF/Cuba project initiated in 1999, and whose members continue to support education in Cuba through a diversity of projects and collaborative work.

The relationship between the BCTF and English teachers in Pinar del Rio began in 2002 with the first BCTF team composed of Guillermo Bustos, Yom Shamash, Susan Gerofsky, and Phil Byrne. The impact of their work on the English language teaching community was significant and influenced the foreign language pedagogy of many teachers in the province.

The BCTF bridge continues to be strengthened by the work done by Hilary Spicer through her teaching in the English Diploma courses organized by the University of Pinar del Rio, as well as through her co-chairing of the first international conference held in Pinar in 2006, Language and Culture: Building Bridges Through the Arts.

The intention for my visit in Vancouver was to explore further possibilities for collaboration among Cuban and Canadian educators. Less than 24 hours after my arrival, I was invited to participate in a Canadian Cuban Friendship Association meeting for hurricane relief. As I stood in front of a room filled with friends of Cuba, I was moved by the deep concern of Canadian people for Cuba’s current situation.

I visited Churchill Secondary School and University Hill. I also dropped in to Sentinel Secondary in West Vancouver where I had my first Hallowe’en experience. The opportunity I had to work with young Canadians, to explore values in multicultural classrooms, and to share ideas with my Canadian colleagues has greatly enriched my personal and professional perspectives.

I met many passionate and inspired language teachers with whom I established contact and shared pedagogical ideas and possibilities when I attended the BC Association of Teachers of Modern Languages annual conference.

During these weeks, I had the chance to explore the possibility of inviting the well-known Cuban artist, Mario Pelegrin, to participate in the Artist in Residence program in 2009.

I also spent time at SFU, meeting with the directors of the Professional Development Program, as well as at UBC, meeting with colleagues in the Faculty of Education and the Hispanic Department.

The last day of my visit, I participated in an interview on Co-op Radio and spoke about the effects of the hurricanes on my country and about the professional opportunities I had during my visit. As I spoke, I felt compelled to mention, yet again, how touched I have been by the outpourings of friendship offered during this time.

I would like to thank all of my British Columbia friends and colleagues for these two wonderful weeks.

Juan Silvio Cabrera Albert, University of Pinar del Rio (Cuba).


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