Mount St. Joseph University

Education faculty, graduate students share experiences in Cuba

Academics, Education, Graduate Academics, Press Releases, Master of Arts: Teacher Advancement Programs, School of Education, Department of Graduate Education

By: Amanda Gratsch

File Under: cuba, education, graduate, immersion, multicultural special education

Last month, a group of graduate students and faculty members from the School of Education at Mount St. Joseph University spent a week exploring Cuba. This marked the second immersion experience for the TEAM MSE (multicultural special education) program at the Mount, but the first for a trip to Cuba.

Cuba’s post-revolutionary educational system counts itself among the best in the Caribbean and Latin America. “One goal of our trip was to engage with teachers and students,” said Clarissa Rosas, Ph.D., associate professor and program director of TEAM MSE. “Beyond the educational emphasis, we also hoped to come to better know and understand the people of this country.”

The Mount team visited five schools, from preschool to university level, both in Havana and in the rural area outside the city. Teaching in Cuba is a government position and teachers make approximately the equivalent of about $20 (U.S.) a month. Many teachers tutor in the evenings and take weekend jobs to make ends meet.

“We found the teachers to be dedicated and caring and the students friendly and curious,” said Angela Kinney, Ed.D. assistant professor of literacy education. “As our students who were participating in the experience were part of the Mount’s Multicultural Special Education program, we also had the opportunity to visit a school for blind and visually impaired students. At each of the sites we visited, we were treated as special guests, as teachers and administrators provided presentations and students gave performances.”

Other professionals, like doctors, leave their occupations for higher-paying jobs in the service industry. One of the group’s hiking guides was a former university physics professor who left his career in hopes of being able to earn more money with gratuities.

“People we encountered all throughout our trip were equally welcoming and genial,” Dr. Rosas said. “When we mentioned we were visiting from the United States, many responded by saying how happy they were to have us, particularly since we are such close neighbors and should be able to visit each other’s countries freely.”

“We felt fortunate to visit Cuba at such a historical moment, to see its beautiful countryside and learn the stories of some incredible people,” said Dr. Kinney. “We hope this leads to more experiences like this down the road.”