Ellie Flores ’24, an Early Childhood and Special Education double major with a Spanish minor, had never traveled abroad before arriving at The Valley. She did, however, have a beloved aunt, Elsie Sepulveda, who inspired her to take the leap—twice.
Flores ended up studying in Costa Rica and Italy.
“I have always had the passion to travel around the world and help others,” said Flores. “I was a little nervous the first time since I would go without my parents, but Aunt Elsie gave me the confidence.
“I chose Costa Rica because it would help my Spanish minor,” she added. “As a native Spanish speaker, I was excited to visit a Spanish-speaking country and see the similarities and differences of our cultures. I stayed with three host families, my favorite people in Costa Rica.”
Flores received assistance to study in Costa Rica through the Zerbe Summer Study Abroad Scholarship, established by Grace ’30 and Hobson Zerbe. This generosity enabled her to study abroad again in a new program for education majors established by Dr. Jeffrey Laferriere, Director of Secondary Education and Assistant Professor of Education. Laferriere created the program for his students to study the Italian educational system.
All LVC students who studied abroad this past summer and academic year received grants through the newly created Katherine J. Bishop Fund for Global Study. Established in the summer of 2022 by LVC trustee Kathy Bishop, the Bishop fund provides between $500 and $3,000 for airfare, lodging, meals, and other costs to help encourage students to gain international experience and adventure.
Flores took on the challenge of studying in Italy to help her become a better teacher once she graduates.
“I was immersed in the vibrant educational landscape of Italy and gained invaluable insights,” she said. “One particular school stood out to me—an inclusive primary school that emphasized art and creativity as essential elements of the curriculum. The school provided a nurturing environment for children to explore their artistic talents, express themselves, and engage in collaborative projects. It ignited my passion for incorporating arts-based learning into my teaching.”
Flores did fight through some trials while in Italy.
“Overcoming the language barrier was a challenge, but I practiced daily and interacted with locals, and found that they were patient and appreciative of my attempts. I realized that making mistakes was a natural part of the process, so my confidence grew, and I became comfortable engaging.”
So, how did she end up wanting to become a teacher?
“While in elementary school in the Lebanon School District, I had a teacher who stood out and made a lasting impact on my life,” said Flores. “My mom was in the hospital for an extended period, so my father was always with her. My teacher [Kendra Stichler Stouch ’04] went out of her way to ensure that my younger siblings and I had everything we needed and were okay. From then on, I knew I wanted to continue the great work of Mrs. Stouch and return one day to teach in Lebanon.
“I plan to integrate artistic activities, such as painting, music, and storytelling, into my lessons. Visiting schools in Italy profoundly impacted my teaching approach. It broadened my perspective, inspired innovative teaching strategies, and reinforced my commitment to creating inclusive and creative learning environments for young children.”