Feature Friday: Rosanne Loukonen

In the beginning, Rosanne Loukonen’s level 1A lessons with her student, Angelica, consisted of smiles, laughing, drawing pictures, hand gestures, and when the message really wasn’t getting across, calling Angelica’s kids in to translate. Rosanne remembers, “Angelica called Intercambio and said ‘Can you send me someone who does speak a little Spanish?’ And they said, ‘Nope. It’s called immersion.’” Seven years later, Rosanne and Angelica are finishing up Level 6B. Rosanne said, “My respect and admiration and friendship with Angelica has allowed us to go this long.” Recently, Rosanne also began working another student she knew through church, Alma.

Did you have any teaching experience prior to Intercambio?
– I am a retired school teacher. I was a first grade teacher and also a Title l reading teacher. It was in a small community in Southeast Colorado and we did not have any Latino students. It was pretty much a homogeneous community. The kids went to school in the same building that their grandparents went to. Totally different environment.

What has been a particularly memorable experience with Intercambio?
– My greatest pleasure is when Angelica told me, “I just feel so good because I went to the dentist and I understood everything he had to say.” Or she said, “I went and had a parent-teacher conference and I didn’t need a translator.” Those are the times that made it really worthwhile.

What has been surprising about working with your student or something unexpected you have learned?
– I see in Angelica courage. It’s probably like what my great-grandparents wanted, when they came to the United States: they wanted a better life for their children. And they were willing to work really hard and do whatever it took in order to have a better life for their kids. Angelica and her husband want the same thing that I would want, that my grandparents wanted when they came, that any immigrant wants when they come to the United States: they want a chance to have opportunity and dreams. They’re willing to work for it. Both of them have taken classes to get GEDs. They’re just growing as human beings. Those are the things I really admire about them, and makes me feel good that I’m a part of that.