Meet Tom Alsop, Program Director for Aventura Cultural Enrichment Immersion Programs

We are proud to sponsor the Aventura Cultural Enrichment Immersion Program for high school and middle school Spanish teachers in partnership with Program Director Tom Alsop. During an Aventura Cultural Program, teachers interact with local teachers, learn firsthand about the cultures of Cuba or Spain, and dramatically improve their Spanish skills through immersion in the language. We recently asked Tom a few questions about his immersion programs, including what teachers can expect, and what he’s most looking forward to with this summer’s programs.

Tom Alsop holds a Master’s degree in Spanish Literature from Indiana University and a BA from Marian University. Tom retired from Ben Davis High School after a long and rewarding career teaching middle school and high school Spanish. Since then, Tom has served as an adjunct professor of Spanish at Butler University.

In Tom’s 31 year writing career, he has created more than 350 culture and grammar activity books, readers, grammar workbooks, and video/poster sets for Teacher’s Discovery and Carlex. He presently writes, does workshops and directs the WorldStrides/University of Colorado/Colorado Springs Spanish Teacher Immersion Programs in Madrid and La Habana. Tom has an online radio show at the University of Colorado/Colorado Springs called Tom’s World Language Café and is a frequent exhibitor and presenter at state, regional and national world language conferences.

WorldStrides: The Aventura Cultural programs are designed for the teacher. What can a teacher expect from one of these programs? Why should a teacher consider one of these immersion programs?

Tom Alsop: Teachers can expect small group instruction with six or less in each group. They will work with native teachers who make learning fun, interactive, and student centered. Classes are live and on the streets of Madrid and Havana. There is a huge emphasis on experiential learning via cooking classes, dance classes, music classes, and experiencing the culture live with your small group in neighborhoods, museums, and restaurants. Teachers get to share ideas with me in mini-method 45-minute classes. They also collect regalia and do a culture project to share with their classes and get graduate credit in Spanish for their daily participation in the program and completion of their culture project.

Teachers live with a native family and speak Spanish all the time. No English! This helps with improvement of their listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Spanish, as well as an expansion of their knowledge of Spanish or Cuban culture.

WorldStrides: With Cuba more accessible than ever, what do teachers stand to learn from the country?

Alsop: Teachers can learn firsthand about daily life in Cuba. They can learn about Spanish in Cuba, the local idioms. They can meet high school teachers at a Cuban school and observe their teaching. Teachers can also visit a hospital to observe the Cuban health care system. They will learn firsthand about important streets, museums, markets, modes of transportation, food, neighborhoods, politics, government, sports, and much more. They can focus on Ernest Hemingway and José Martí and learn about the Cuban revolution and some of its heroes. Teachers will also learn about family life while living in Cuban homes.

WorldStrides: When considering the Madrid and Cuba programs, what are the biggest differences between the two? Tips on what to consider when choosing between the two programs? They both sound so exciting!

Alsop: Madrid has lots of technology, ATMs, smart phones, and social media. Havana has little of these. Madrid is an old but also modern city as well. Havana is an old city that is opening its doors to the 21st century and other parts of the world. The people in Madrid and Havana are both open and very friendly!

Both have music, dance, food, neighborhoods, sports, and family life. If you prefer a beautiful European city, plugged into high tech, with wonderful people, food, museums, and neighborhoods, then you want Madrid. If you prefer a city that is opening its doors to the United States, a city that lives with an infrastructure of years gone by, a city that is ready to move into the 21st century, a city full of life and culture, then you want to visit Havana.

WorldStrides: Do you have a favorite tour memory to share with us?

Alsop: Last summer was a memorable one in Madrid as the teachers and I went to see Juanes in concert at the Teatro Real!

WorldStrides: What are you most looking forward to with this year’s programs?

Alsop: I’m most looking forward to working with the teachers and seeing the smiles on their faces as they interact with citizens of Madrid and Havana while learning about culture on the sidewalks of these beautiful cities! I’m especially looking forward to our Aventura Cultural en La Habana since this will be our first program in Havana!

Learn more about our Aventura Cultural Enrichment Immersion Programs.