Many of BCC’s Language Program Alumni are using their language skills to do important work in the world.

We are currently featuring stories about two BCC Language Program alumnae, Sarah Proechel, who is using her language skills and passion for women’s health to teach midwifery to indigenous women in Guatemala, and Bernadette Rivera, who is teaching Spanish to middle school students, in Connecticut.

Sarah Proechel received a Fulbright Grant to live and work in Guatemala from September 2010 until June 2011 to share her knowledge about midwifery with indigenous doulas, midwives and students of midwifery. In addition to helping to birth children and teaching birthing techniques at Clínicas Mayas, in Kaqchikel, she is helping bring into the world a school for midwifery in the Lake Atitlán region. An essential part of her mission is to: “help engender in others a respect for and appreciation of the indigenous Mayan culture through the unique window of midwifery…by working collaboratively with local midwives and observing the ways in which they work in order to understand their value within the context of their own communities.”

Sarah's first meeting with the midwives of San Pablo

Sarah’s first meeting with the midwives of San Pablo

Sarah is passionate about this project. She says on her blog: “It’s as if the midwifery school is in gestation and wants to be born — a school that can be an avenue for women to receive an education that will strengthen their communities and safeguard their rights to give birth safely, in dignity and in freedom… We want to create a program that incorporates Mayan healing practices with the midwifery model of care, holistic medicine, clinical practice in home and hospital settings, leadership training and women’s circles… I am simply helping to midwife the birth of this school. I am answering that call.”

Sarah Proechel, right; then, left to right: Ester (local, experienced midwife), Inti (1 1/2 yrs), Mariu (aspiring midwife), Alicia (local doula), Corina (visiting midwife from Miami).

Sarah Proechel, right; then, left to right: Ester (local, experienced midwife), Inti (1 1/2 yrs), Mariu (aspiring midwife), Alicia (local doula), Corina (visiting midwife from Miami).

Read more on Sarah’s blog:  Sarah Proechel’s Guatemala Blog


Bernadette Rivera, alumna of BCC's Language Program

Bernadette Rivera sent me a wonderful letter to let us know the roads she has taken in her life since her graduation from BCC.  She wrote:

In the fall of 1999, I made the decision to return to school and begin my academic journey.  What I did know is that I was hungry for knowledge and ready to learn.   At first, I had no intentions of being a  Spanish teacher, but I’m so glad that I am.  I was a liberal arts major at BCC where the professors and staff nurtured in me something I never knew I possessed, a real passion for education.  I was on a journey to figure out who I was, and it was at BCC, I was able to discover my desire to become proficient in Spanish.  Throughout my childhood, I heard Spanish being spoken at home because both of my parents are migrants of Puerto Rico.  Like many second generation kids growing up in the U.S., I grew up bilingual, but I never studied Spanish formally.  However, It wasn’t until I arrived at BCC and met Lois Cooper and Sarah Atchley, two of my Spanish professors, did I discover a language I only had known on the surface.  Upon graduation in 2000, I went onto Smith College where I pursued learning more about my family’s culture and history and earned a B.A. in Spanish with a minor in education.


Bernadette Rivera's young lady students decked out for a "Quinceañera" celebration

Nowadays, you will me find at Thomas Edison Middle School in Meriden, CT.  It is a diverse student population where I’m in my 6th year teaching middle school Spanish.  At Thomas Edison, Spanish teachers have the challenging job of teaching science, math and technology based curriculum in Spanish.  In 2007, I started my master’s degree through the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain, where I spent two summers doing course work, and I am currently finishing up my master’s thesis on the topic of technology’s effectiveness in foreign language grammar.

Click on the thumbnail photos to see the original, large images.


Bernadette Rivera's "caballeros" celebrate "Quinceañera"

As for in the classroom, I will continue to share photos of my excursions to Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico (among other non Hispanic countries), and can give my students a primary source of information through my personal experiences.  I share with them my life, and in turn they share with me theirs.  What’s better than that? I plan to continue to teach my students Spanish through many cultures, including the historical contributions of the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs.  Next year, I will be developing a travel unit to Peru based on my personal travels.  Next school year, I will be developing a unit on Macchu Picchu since my hope is to do a hiking trip there in the summer 2012!   My journey to explore the Spanish culture has taken me around the world, and I love that I can bring my students along for the ride.

2 thoughts on “Alumni

  1. Angelique, thank you for posting! We are all very impressed with Sarah’s vision and hard work on behalf of women.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *