Edith Jaco's life has taken her around the globe, from her native Peru to Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.
"These experiences of meeting people and learning about their culture made me aware that knowing their language would give me a great joy and better understanding of their way of living," she said.
Jaco's native language is Spanish, and after finishing her bachelor's degree in Peru, she traveled to England to study English, where she also developed her Italian skills while working in the hospitality business. She also has lived for extended periods in several other countries, including Austria, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Costa Rica and Italy.
"During my visit to Israel, I attended a language institute in the city of Beersheba. Learning Hebrew was a challenge but I enjoyed it very much," she said. "Sometimes when I traveled, it was not possible for me to take classes, but I managed to talk to people in English, Italian or Spanish in the cities where I was living."
Jaco earned her master's degree at the the University of Illinois-Chicago and returned to Peru for her doctorate. After traveling abroad, she and her family relocated to the U.S., and she took graduate courses at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, where she also taught Spanish conversation classes during the summer term.
It was this experience that led Jaco to pursue teaching Spanish as a second language in the U.S.
"I enjoy teaching because it is a way I can share my experiences living abroad with my students," she said. "Teaching allows me to help my students discover themselves and understand others. It gives me immense satisfaction to see my students flourish as they learn and enjoy their achievements in the new language.
"I teach a class for heritage speakers, and this is a special class for me because I am a learner in addition to being the instructor. Students bring rich cultural values as well as an extensive vocabulary into this class because of their experiences living in a bilingual community."
Jaco hopes her students learn to feel confident expressing their thoughts in Spanish and continue to develop their language skills. She also wants them to discover that there are many opportunities where speaking a language is essential to reach people.
"My students are my inspiration, especially when I see they want to know more and more about the subject. It brings me a great deal of joy to see their faces light up, eager to discover the world just as I was during my years in college."