- Rotary InterCountry Teacher Exchange

Reproduced by permission of the Abilene Reporter-News
Thursday, January 25, 1996 page 5A

Argentine teacher explores West Texas education, life in exchange program

English teacher views Abilene public schools with eye for changes coming in her country

By Leslie Strader

Staff Writer

An ambassador of goodwill arrived in Abilene two weeks ago to learn more about the West Texas way of life, and so far, Marta Rabellino says she likes what she sees.

"I have met so many wonderful people here," Rabellino says. "Everyone is so friendly and so nice to me. I would like to take them back with me and show them my country."

She'll have at least one taker. Rabellino teaches English to primary and high school students in Arrecifes, Argentina, and is in Abilene as part of a Rotary exchange program for teachers.

Rabellino is being honored today with a reception hosted by the city of Abilene's sister cities committee. The reception will be from 9:15 - 9:45 a.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 555 Walnut.

She will return to Arrecifes Feb. 3, where she says she will wait expectantly for the Abilene teacher the Rotary Club will select to spend a month in her country.

Coincidentally, Arrecifes is also the hometown of the International Rotary Club president, Luis Giay. This is the first time an Argentine has been elected to that position, Rabellino said.

Rabellino has visited elementary, middle and high schools, the Abilene Police Department, a ranch, the local universities, an Air Force base and the planetarium so far. She has taught Spanish to several groups and served as a "cultural translator" to curious public school students.

"I am visiting and talking with students and interviewing students, asking about their lives, what they are interested in and what their ideas are," she explained. "If possible, I want to start pen pal (correspondence) with them. I want to know about them so my students can know about them."

Part of why Rabellino is interested in Abilene's public schools is because her country's education system is about to be revamped. Instead of eight compulsory grade levels, a ninth grade will be added. Also, English will be the only second language taught in the schools.

"Everything I can see or hear would be helpful," she said. "The schools are (bigger) and more beautiful and well-equipped than schools in my country."

But Rabellino insists the most valuable part of her visit has been the people she's met.

"I not only visited places, I met some very special people, and that's the most important thing to me," she said. "I'm very glad I came here."

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