Cristian Meléndez developed many new skills and contacts during his Fulbright Faculty Development program, through which he studied Teaching English as a Second Language at Iowa State University in 2005. He has been enthusiastically sharing both of those assets back home in El Salvador, where he is Head of the Department of Language at the Universidad Católica de El Salvador, which has one of the largest English language programs in the country.
“When I returned to my country, I began to share with other teachers the knowledge and skills I gained during my program in the United States and formed the Salvadoran English Teachers’ Association (ASALPI) of which I am now the secretary” says Cristian. But establishing ASALPI as a registered non-governmental organization was not an easy task and took four years to accomplish. “We all worked in different institutions and some of us had to commute from a different city for the meetings.”
“The purpose [of ASALPI] is to provide teachers of English with training and opportunities for professional growth. We have trained more than 150 teachers from different parts of El Salvador.”
Recently, the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador awarded a grant to ASALPI to continue training Salvadoran English teachers.
Working with other teachers who have participated in U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, Cristian devotes free time and personal resources to train and mentor others.
“In my free time I continue to train other teachers with ASALPI,” says Cristian “I travel to other cities to train teachers from public and private institutions throughout the country. I have also started volunteering for the State Department’s English Access Microscholarship Program, through which we will teach English to 60 14- to 16-year-old students from low income and underprivileged parts of the country. The Access project gives me great satisfaction, because I know that it will change these students’ lives.”
Cristian’s enthusiasm about exchanges and other U.S. government-supported programs continues to grow. He has a new perception of U.S. culture and invites others to experience the United States for themselves by participating in exchanges.
“Usually people believe that Americans are just the way they are portrayed in the movies and television series,” says Cristian “I realized that that is a stereotype, and they are not like the movies. Of course, the exchange program changed me not only as a professional, but also as a person. Now I want more people to have the same experience that I did. I encourage more teachers to participate in the different exchange programs that the Department of State offers. I want to give more opportunities to people to succeed in life the way I have.”