If you are looking for Francisco Marcano at Guilford Elementary, follow the claves, maracas and horns through the halls of the Sterling school.
The 33-year-old Spanish Language teacher from Venezuela danced in the front of his Sterling classroom on Monday morning.
"De donde eres, de donde eres, de donde eres Marianna," he sang.
"Republica Dominicana," his students answered.
Marcano challenged students to repeat "Republica Dominicana" faster and faster.
"Mas rapido, mas rapido, mas rapido," he said.
The tongue-twisted students laughed.
Marcano continued to make learning fun, going over the days of week, and months of the year in Spanish.
He asked the class to describe the weather.
"Nublado," Jose Perez shouted. "Cloudy."
"Muy bien," Marcano replied.
THE VENEZUELAN NATIVE is a Visiting International Faculty (VIF) member from San Juan de los Morros, located in the central southwest of the country.
The VIF program is the largest international exchange program for U.S. schools and teachers worldwide. This year, VIF sponsored more than 1,700 teachers from 55 nations. Ten states including Virginia welcomed faculty members from countries like Argentina, Colombia, Denmark and New Zealand to the United States. Loudoun County Public Schools hosted 73 of 252 VIF teachers throughout Virginia. Local schools like Dominion Trail, Guilford and Sugarland elementary schools and River Bend Middle School participated in the program.
VIF spokesperson Leslie Maxwell said the VIF application process is a rigorous one, open only to teachers living outside of the United States.
VIF applicants are required to have advanced written and verbal proficiency in English, a valid driver’s license and at least three years teaching or related professional experience with students between 5 and 18 years old.
The popular program carefully screens applicants. This year, VIF only admitted 7 percent of its applicants, Maxwell said.
THE VIF PROGRAM selected Marcano to represent Venezuela in Sterling.
The teacher moved to Sterling to teach Spanish to Guilford and Sugarland elementary school students one year ago.
Guilford Elementary School vice principal Richard Rudnick described Marcano as energetic and highly motivated.
"He is an asset to the school," Rudnick said. "He gets everyone involved."
Guilford Elementary School is made up of student from countries like Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Pakistan and Venezuela.
"I love this school," Marcano said. "It is made up of so many different faces."
Rudnick said Marcano adds variety to the Guilford faculty.
"The kids really connect with him and feel more connected to the school," he said. "He is very well respected by both the students and the staff."
As Marcano walked down the hall to teach his seventh Spanish class of the day, students greeted him with "Hello" and "Hola, Mr. Marcano."
"Buenas tardes, boys and girls," he replied.
MARCANO IS NO stranger to the United States and the VIF program.
In 1999, he traveled to Windsor, Va., as a VIF elementary-school teacher.
After three years in the United States, Marcano moved back to his home country for two years.
"My first experience was excellent. I lived serving as a cultural ambassador," Marcano said. "I definitely like transforming lives through cultural exchange. I wanted to experience that again."
Marcano reapplied to the VIF program and was selected as one of 73 teachers to work in Loudoun County.
He will complete his last year in the United States at Guilford Elementary School.
"This is my home school," Marcano said.
Marcano received VIF’s Outstanding Cultural Ambassador award for his dedication to education and cultural exchange, Friday, March 31.
"I’m eager to exchange cultural ideas and values," he said. "And I am learning so much everyday from the kids. They are an endless source of knowledge."
When Marcano returns to Venezuela, he will share what he has learned from U.S. school teachers and students with Venezuelan schools.
"Serving as a cultural ambassador is a dream come true," Marcano said.