Early Childhood Education major Donte Gilbert just returned from studying abroad for three months in Costa Rica where he spent time student teaching at Marian Baker School, which teaches classes for prekindergarten to twelfth grade. Gilbert was a part of the first group of Early Childhood Education majors from West Georgia to study abroad in Costa Rica.
“It felt absolutely wonderful,” said Gilbert. “I felt as though I was a part of something groundbreaking that could potentially change the world. I took a lot of pride in doing it as well. I was able to put on display the type of teachers the University of West Georgia puts out on a regular basis.”
The best part of Gilbert’s experience was meeting and teaching in Lleana Cappella’s classroom, as well as the fourth graders he helped her teach. For Gilbert it was one of the best things he has ever experienced because teaching kids is his passion.
Cappella has been teaching for over 25 years so Gilbert was able to connect with her and learn from her.
“She is the lady that changed my life for the better,” said Gilbert. “She didn’t just teach me how to be a better teacher, but also a better person. She taught me to never bring how I feel into the classroom and to always expect the unexpected as a teacher. She also taught me to be stern and fair because consistency goes a long way in the field of education.”
Being in Costa Rica was a challenge at times for Gilbert, especially in the classroom because he was surrounded around people who speak Spanish. It was very important for Gilbert to be able to speak Spanish with his students in order to connect with them on a personal level, though they also speak English.
“My host family was very influential in helping me assimilate to the Costa Rican culture because of my lack of Spanish,” said Gilbert. “They helped me to learn a lot while I was there. It was a challenge my first month but the last two were not as difficult.”
Studying abroad will make you miss home a lot so while Gilbert was there his fraternity, the Kappa Kappa Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated, supported him along the way by telling him to keep his head up and reminding him that he was there for a good cause.
Gilbert describes his overall experience in Costa Rica as “very laidback.” He said in Costa Rica they go by something called “pera vida,” which means live life with no worries. Gilbert said that is the motto he tried to live by while he was over there and now that he is back.
Besides taking classes and student teaching, Gilbert said that he and his group had the opportunity to visit so many wonderful places from the world, such as a national theater and beautiful lush beaches.
“My favorite place that we visited was a little area in the countryside where we were able to fish and enjoy the company of good friends.”
After he graduates in December, Gilbert plans on teaching anywhere between first and fourth grade. He is open to teaching in either the United States or overseas. Gilbert also aspires to write children books.