SCVi’s Erika Cedeño Leads Meaningful International Learning
By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools
The lowercase “i’ in iLEAD represents “international.” iLEAD was founded on the belief that learning foreign languages and studying many cultures helps a learner become a more compassionate, open-minded global citizen. At iLEAD-SCVi, Spanish facilitator Erika Cedeño is a leader in this effort.
Originally from Mexico, Cedeño is starting her 7th year at SCVi. She also coaches cross country and swimming and works at the state level on the development of Spanish language assessments. She is a married mother of three, and her two youngest, Maria and Emilia, attend SCVi.
Fully embracing the iLEAD vision of project-based and social-emotional learning, Cedeño focuses on making all learning meaningful and purposeful.
“I want them to enjoy the class,” Cedeño said. “In a couple of years, they may not be fluent, but they will remember some of the language and will have improved their skills.”
Cedeño’s mission is to impart high levels of compassion and empathy. She uses her life story and the Spanish language to do that. For example, Cedeño shares with her learners about the poverty she has witnessed in Mexico.
“Sometimes we are not grateful for what we have,” Cedeño said. “We have to learn about others in order to understand that.”
As challenging as it is right now for our learners to all have to learn virtually while at home, Cedeño quickly points out that at least we have access to computers and the internet.
“In Mexico currently, students have to learn from TV, as they cannot afford to provide all of the learners with devices,” Cedeño said.
Since Cedeño began teaching in Mexico 25 years ago, she has focused on finding the best resources and projects to engage her students and make the learning authentic. She does this by embracing technology, encouraging collaboration and facilitating engaging projects.
For example, she has her learners use Minecraft as a design tool. SCVi’s first-semester Spanish 1 learners create a dream house in Minecraft and then present it and sell it Shark Tank–style. Second-semester learners again use Minecraft but this time to design complete cities. Cedeño adds that learners also publish magazines, create comic strips and follow recipes as a final way to communicate their knowledge of Spanish vocabulary and grammar.
Cedeño says she wants kids to learn the vocabulary, but more importantly she wants them to learn the lifelong skills they need to be successful.
“I try to immerse my learners into a world of learning, challenges and collaboration,” Cedeño said. “Having them create, design or make something and then explain that to an audience is what makes the learning meaningful and memorable.”
Cedeño acknowledges that she focuses on collaboration as a key skill as a priority in her Spanish classes. “If they come out of my Spanish classes better collaborators, I have done my job well,” Cedeño said.
Cedeño gets amazing feedback about her facilitation from learners, colleagues, parents and community members.
Indeed, during the first iteration of virtual learning last spring, Cedeño turned her kitchen into a cooking show and was featured on the Spanish language network Telemundo (see link here).
Her family at SCVi is equally enamored with Cedeño’s star power. According to SCVi Director of Operations Nicole Padovich, Cedeño is an amazing facilitator who meets all her learners where they are. Padovich cites the cultural projects that Cedeño deploys that keep learners engaged and invested.
“Erika models what iLEAD Schools stand for by reaching out to the community and continually setting new goals,” Padovich said. “She inspires learners because she can reach them on different levels.”
Cedeño’s learners are equally complimentary. “Señora Cedeño is a great Spanish facilitator,” said sophomore Zach Blinn, who was in Cedeño’s Spanish 1 class last year and her Spanish 2 class this year. “She motivates us by making everyone feel welcome and smart. I really enjoyed working on her Minecraft Project in Spanish 1.”
Cedeño’s “Now” and “Then”
In the current virtual environment, Cedeño is focused on being the best facilitator she can be. She wants to engage all her learners and make learning as enjoyable as possible for them. Cedeño is also concerned more than ever about her learners’ mental health and social-emotional well-being.
“Our times are challenging and we are all missing human contact,” Cedeño said. “I want to keep them connected and smiling. We need to be there for one another to survive and thrive.”
In the future, she hopes to increasingly incorporate things like social media and blogging into her Spanish classes. She also hopes to partner with local nonprofit organizations and media outlets that will allow her learners to produce Spanish language content for professional use.
Ultimately, she has big dreams and plans for all her learners. “These students are going to change the world and make it better,” Cedeño said.