Alumni Spotlight: Kyler Canastra’14

Name: Kyler CanastraKyler

Graduation Year: 2014

Major: Spanish & History

Industry: Currently an English Teaching Assistant in León, Spain, planning to pursue a career in Education. Also, working as the Study Abroad Cultural Advisor for Holy Cross students in León.

Favorite Class: Either “Modern Spanish Drama” with Professor Freear-Papio, “Bilingualism in the Spanish-Speaking World” with Professor Alba-Salas or “French Revolutions” with Professor McBride

Campus Involvement: SPUD, Spring Break Immersion Leader, Arrupe Immersion Leader (Nicaragua), Bilingual Theater Troupe, Music Ministry, Student Advising Committee (Spanish Department), Pax Christi, Sound of St. James A Cappella Group, Foreign Language Assistant Cultural Liaison, Escape Retreat Leader, Study Abroad Ambassador

College Internship/Work Experience: Campus Ministry Internship: ESL teacher in New Bedford, MA, Mellon Summer Research in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Fine Arts: Conducted research with Professor Alba-Salas

What were some of the most defining events/opportunities/aspects of your time at Holy Cross?

Some of the most defining opportunities that I had at Holy Cross were those in which I was able to leave Worcester and explore different places both close and far from campus. As both a sophomore and a senior, I was able to travel to Nicaragua through the Chaplain’s office, which allowed me to witness the global issues that many face around the world. This trip challenged me both spiritually and emotionally and allowed me to begin to understand the difficult realities that many face in other countries. I still remember the people that I met there and I continue remembering their stories years later. Nicaragua was not the only time I was able to travel internationally during my time on the Hill. I had the chance to study abroad my junior year in León, Spain. Not only did this experience help me to become fluent in another language, but it also taught me how to adapt to a different culture and way of life. By living with a host family and attending a foreign university, I found myself far out of my comfort zone. Although it seemed difficult at first, I grew as both a student and global citizen.

It may seem that most of my defining experiences as a Holy Cross student occurred in other countries; however, some of the most special moments of my undergraduate career are from my involvement as a volunteer with SPUD in Worcester. Throughout my time on campus, I volunteered in different positions including being an ESL teacher for local immigrants. By getting off campus once a week and leaving the worries and stresses of being a college student behind, I was able to engage with my local community and learn from those who also called Worcester “home.”

What is one thing someone should be certain to do before they graduate?

I think that every student should go on a Spring Break Immersion Trip at least once before they graduate. Before attending Holy Cross and learning about this opportunity, I had always imagined that I would either spend my Spring breaks home or traveling with friends. I never thought that I would go on a service trip. I did not go on Spring Break Immersion as a first-year student and I regretted it. I remember all of my friends coming back and raving about how much fun they had and how much the experience had impacted them. I signed up during my second year and the trip was unforgettable. Not only did I meet new friends on the trip, but I also learned the importance of service work and the impacts it has both on the volunteer and the local community. I was luckily able to lead a Spring Break Immersion trip my senior year and it is something I will never forget. Spring Break Immersion takes the many Jesuit values that you learn on campus and allows you to begin to apply them to your everyday life.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your field?

Patience. Teaching is a such a rewarding experience; however, you always have to be accommodating and flexible in order to learn how to connect with your students. By moving to Spain and teaching English in a high school, I took a risk. Not only have I had to adjust to a foreign education system, but I had to learn how to connect with my students by using their second language and to make sure that they understood every word that I said. At first, it was very difficult. There were many long days where I questioned my decision to teach. However, after many weeks and months had passed, I began to learn what strategies worked best with my students and after a year here in Spain, I have found my experience to be very rewarding. Being a good teacher does not happen overnight. You have to take the time and connect with your students and analyze your teaching style in order to see improvements within your classroom.

What skills have you found most useful in your professional life that you attribute from learning at Holy Cross?

During my time on the Hill, I learned that it is necessary to be open-minded in any situation in order to achieve any goal. While you might have a specific idea in mind, you must be able to listen to your peers and adjust to their needs and suggestions. Living and working in a foreign country has challenged me to incorporate my own knowledge in the field of education through collaboration with my colleagues. It is almost as if I were back at Holy Cross working on a group project or presentation. Not only am I learning from my own experience, but I am also learning for the input and ideas of my fellow teachers. Holy Cross taught me to discuss and analyze any situation and I am grateful for this every day that I go into school.

What is the most important advice you could give a student on obtaining an internship or a job?

I would say that it is most important to be calm and willing to try new things when applying for a job and internship. We all want to plan our futures and have the “perfect” job that will make us happy, but I know from experience that we cannot live our lives in this manner. We have to be able to overcome any setback and learn from our mistakes and from what we are given in a particular moment. Work hard for what you want, but take risks and take advantage of the opportunities that you are presented with. When starting at Holy Cross, I never thought that I would end up being a teacher in Spain, but I am so grateful for taking chances and being open to new experiences.