To be an English teaching assistant in the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP) at a private school in Manacor on the island of Mallorca, Aisleen Renteria ’21 relied on the guidance and mentoring of many at Dominican University of California.
It took a supportive village to help Aisleen land her “dream job” in a village on Spain’s Balearic Islands.
“My dream has always been to work with students and travel—so this was the perfect job for me,” Aisleen says. “I am so grateful for my professors who helped me get to where I am now.”
Aisleen, who majored in political science with minors in history and Latin American Studies, credits numerous professors in the School of Liberal Arts and Education for advancing her career goals.
“My professors helped me shape my career path. Alison Howard, Jordan Lieser, Christian Dean, Cynthia Taylor, Leslie Ross, and Radiça Ostojic-Portello truly helped me understand and visualize what I wanted to do with my life,” Aisleen says.
“My history, ethics, and politics professors taught me to be a better writer, researcher, and person. They all inspired me to become like them and to never give up my passion of wanting to learn everything about everything. Teaching and working with students has always been my dream, and the fact that I can apply things that I studied and researched at Dominican in my new job is truly a blessing.”
Her peers, including Katya Palacios ’21, also supported Aisleen’s goals and encouraged her to take advantage of the University’s many resources available to undergraduates. They were having a snack at Chilly’s Café on campus one day when Aisleen expressed her desire to study abroad. Katya convinced Aisleen to contact Giulia Welch, then assistant director for the Global Education Office. Aisleen immediately emailed Giulia.
“A few minutes later I heard back from her and scheduled an appointment to discuss my options. Soon enough I was applying through the program ISEP and selecting the universities that caught my eye,” Aisleen says. “Soon I was on an airplane with Katya, on our way to Sweden.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic interrupted Aisleen’s adventure at Linnaeus University in Växjö, Sweden. The experience, however, was still extraordinary. She had in-person classes in “Political Corruption,” “Democratization Studies,” and “European Union Politics.” Then, after returning to Dominican, she was able to continue her studies at the Swedish university online and took a course called “Harry Potter from an Intermedial Perspective.”
“My time in Sweden was truly one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. I created friendships with people from Sweden, Albania, Iran, Italy, and Bangladesh,” Aisleen says. “Even though my time was cut short in Sweden, it was a great privilege to be able to study there and learn about Swedish culture.”
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Going to Sweden was not in her plans when Aisleen came to Dominican from Vintage High School in Napa. She was looking for a small, private university with a great student-to-teacher ratio. Dominican, she said, “was a perfect fit.”
“This was absolutely the best part of being in this program. We students created strong connections with all of our professors and had more guidance and attention from them, as opposed to a larger university,” says Aisleen, the recipient of a Sandy Peeples Scholarship. “I chose Dominican because of the political science and history programs. The professors of these departments are the best at what they do. Their passion gave me the determination to continue researching historical or political topics, to always be curious, and ask questions, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable they are.”
Aisleen added Latin American studies as a minor at Dominican because of her desire to seek more information about Mexico and other Latin American countries. “These minors influenced me to continue learning the truth, as I had only ever attended public schools for my education, I did not learn the full truth about the history of the United States or Europe. These minors helped me satisfy my curious mind.”
That curiosity extended to NALCAP. Her Spanish teacher at Dominican, Radiça Ostojic-Portello, told Aisleen about NALCAP because she raised her hand in class when Radiça asked if any students were interested in teaching in Spain.
“Some time had passed and I had forgotten about this interaction until I received a forwarded email from Alison Howard about this teaching program and received information about what the program was and to attend a Zoom meeting to learn more,” Aisleen says. “Later that day I went online to learn more about the program and began my application. Before I could officially submit my application I needed a letter of recommendation, so I asked professor Jordan Lieser to write one for me. I then submitted everything and, by the end of June, I had received my acceptance letter stating I would be a teacher's assistant in the Balearic Islands.”
Aisleen was drawn to Mallorca because of the beauty, beaches, history, and culture. Having worked at Saint Raphael School in San Rafael as a caretaker and mentor, Aisleen thought she would be an ideal teacher.
“My goal is to mentor students and guide them in their lives. As a foreigner, I wanted to create connections and build trust with everyone as this would make teaching English much easier and more fun. I can say that I have created strong connections with my students and coworkers,” Aisleen says. “To me, being a teacher is helping students with anything they need, assisting them with their assignments while also having a great time.”
Though she is a native Spanish speaker, Aisleen admits there are many phrases and words she does not know in Castellano. In schools in Spain, she says, they speak in Catalan, which is similar to Spanish, but a bit difficult at the same time. Now Aisleen is learning new phrases every day in Castellano and Catalan and she shares her Mexican-American culture with co-workers and her students, who range in age from five to 17.
“My favorite lesson plan and activity I had done with my secondary school students was to create a vision/dream board. My students created a vision board where they placed images of what they wanted their future to look like,” Aisleen says. “The goal of this activity was to have my students think about their goals and dreams for the future. This was a way of giving my students creative freedom as they designed their boards, as well as to get them to reflect on their lives. I believe that vision boards give us all a way of visualizing and manifesting our goals and dreams into a reality; as we see images of what we want for our future, we subconsciously work for them.”