Two Salinas teachers among 15 in the nation chosen to teach Ukraine refugees

It was a great week for two Salinas teachers who received the opportunity of a lifetime.

Washington high school science teacher Gabrielle DeVilla and Alisal high school teacher Patricia Matulas Mason packed their bags and passports and embarked on a trip to Poland.

There, they will spend two weeks in a summer camp set up to support and educate a group of 60 refugee children who felt the impact of the war in Ukraine. The camp is being coordinated by the Kosciuszko Foundation, NATO Worldwide Disaster Relief and the Folkowisko Foundation.

Alisal High School teacher Patricia Matulas Mason is waiting to board her flight to travel from San Francisco to Poland.

A large part of the teachers ’mission will involve helping students progress in their English, but also participating in activities such as hiking, dancing, and other social activities.

Matulas says she was selected for her multilingual skills and Polish training. She says having this camp is not just a good educational opportunity for children, but an opportunity to show them that they are not alone.

“I’ve been watching the coverage on TV and reading about it and it’s heartbreaking. It made me cry so many times and I just wanted to do something so I could help,” he said. “I’m just afraid to fall in love and bring one back with me.”

Science teacher Gabrielle DeVilla organizes school supplies in her classroom at Washington Middle School in Salinas, California.

An opportunity of a lifetime

The teachers are two of the 15 educators selected nationwide by the American Federation of Teachers, and the only two selected in California for the humanitarian mission.

“When I was introduced, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” DeVilla said. “I’m still in shock. I can’t believe this is happening.”

Both teachers are willing to work with their own group of about 10 students each and have already met them virtually.

A person wearing a green shirt runs in front of Alisal High School in Salinas, California, on Thursday, March 18, 2021. Alisal High School has one of the largest student populations of all schools in the Salinas Union School District.

An anxious Matulas carried suitcases full of toys, prizes, and even American-branded treats that the children asked for just for them.

“They’re basically high school and high school students,” he said. “I said they bring marshmallows and graham crackers because they really want to make s’mores.”

DeVilla said he received great support from friends and family. Many people also donated material and treats for the children.

All teachers will be trained during the first few days to help them work better with children’s trauma.

Marcos Cabrera, director of communications for the Salinas Union High School District, is at the main entrance of Washington Middle School in Salinas, California, on Monday, April 26, 2021.

“For example, we shouldn’t mention anything to them about the family because most of them lost their parents,” Matulas said.

Teachers say that while they don’t know where the children will move, they hope there is a possibility that this educational experience will help bring them to the United States.

“It would be great for our district to partner with them and welcome them as foreign exchange students,” DeVilla said. “We have a Yemeni population here and it would be great to have a Ukrainian population here.”

Two Salinas teachers among 15 in the nation chosen to teach Ukraine refugees Source link Two Salinas teachers among 15 in the nation chosen to teach Ukraine refugees

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