Brainpower Schools Make International Connections

February 9, 2024

Patricia Ramirez, director of the Brainpower Connection schools and newly named principal of St. Anthony Catholic High School (SACHS), understands the benefits of broadening horizons in a child’s education. In her role as director of the Brainpower Connection, she collaborated with the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) congregation in Mexico to connect San Antonio Brainpower students to students located on Mexico campuses. The project, referred to as the Brainpower and CCVI Mexico Connection, aims to build bridges through virtual meetings so that students can build connection, practice language acquisition, learn about diverse cultures and more.

Many of the Mexico schools that are partnered with Brainpower schools are bilingual schools in which students learn English, just as Brainpower students are learning Spanish. Teachers from both Mexico and the United States collaborated to consider how to help students as young as preschool take advantage of this opportunity to practice and better develop their language skills.

Susanna Heimbold, fourth grade teacher at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School, was paired with one of these Mexico schools during the first collaboration. Her students, and those in Mexico, practiced their language skills by delivering presentations about different holidays that they celebrate. Brainpower students shared information about U.S. holidays like Thanksgiving, while the students in Mexico taught Brainpower students about holidays like Día de los Reyes Magos, also known as Three Kings Day. In addition to providing an opportunity to fine tune their foreign language skills, the project also helped students learn to celebrate other cultures.

“I really enjoyed that my students got to see that language acquisition is fun, but it can also be challenging,” shared Hiembold. “They were able to see how this other culture is learning English just like many of our students are learning Spanish, and that no one is perfect when learning a new language and that's okay. What's important is that they were eager to learn and were excited to meet their peers from another country.”

After the success of the first leg of the Brainpower and CCVI Mexico Connection, Ramirez, Hiembold and a representative teacher from SACHS, flew to Mexico City to meet with CCVI Sisters and directors and teachers of the schools they had collaborated with. The group discussed how to improve future student meetings and expand the project to reach more students in the future.

“They were the loveliest people, and their campus was just amazing and beautiful,” remarked Heimbold.

Going forward, the Brainpower and Mexico schools are scheduled to have more meetings and shared learning opportunities. In February, students will explore the theme, “Meet my School” and in the spring, they will discuss how to take “care of God’s creations.”

Hiembold has high hopes for the project’s future and how it can benefit students for years to come.

“I would love for my students just to have that experience of reaching out to a different culture, community, country and to ignite a fire in them to want to travel in the future,” she remarked.“They’ll be able to see the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism. They will be able to use their language skills not only here in San Antonio, in their community, but to branch out to other parts of the world.”

Learn more about the opportunities provided within UIW’s Brainpower Connection partner schools here.