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The Impact of Cultural Fluidity in the Education System – Part 3 of 3

A mural of Guatemalan culture.

Christine Baldwin

The three part series continues as we explore the experiences of language teachers and professors whose hidden diversity has helped them better understand the world around them, and make them even greater educators. To complete the series, we explore the cultural fluidity of English as a Second Language (ESL) specialist and educator, Christine Baldwin. 

To show the audience what Baldwin looks like
Christine Baldwin. Photo Courtesy of Christine Baldwin

Although born in the United States in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Billings, Montana. Baldwin is much more than a mere bilingual educator. On the surface, with her blue eyes and blonde hair, very few might expect her to have cultural fluidity. But Baldwin’s cultural fluidity plays a massive role in both her outlook on life and her teaching styles. After all, first cultural impressions are scarcely correct. Hidden diversity is more prevalent than ever. Baldwin has meaningfully immersed in Mexican, Guatemalan, and American culture. She is an Adult Third Culture Kid. 

Where The Cultural Fluidity Began

Baldwin headed to Southern Mexico as an exchange student when she was 15 years old. The trip occurred in between her sophomore and junior year of high school in the midst of the Guatemalan Civil War. The war, according to the Public Broadcasting Station News Hour, left a legacy of brutality. Baldwin recalls seeing poverty unlike she had ever seen. She saw 100 year old women selling tortillas for a living, children gathered along streets waiting for clean water, and armed guards posted everywhere. She spent a significant time in Mexico before returning to the United States. Later, she went abroad several more times in her college career. Baldwin spoke of the transformations she underwent while living in Mexico.

To give readers a glance at the life within Guatemala, where Baldwin spends much of her time.
Antigua, Guatemala. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

“I was taken into a whole different culture and I was fortunate enough to be with people that completely took me in and welcomed me,” Baldwin said. “I was transformed in a way that a lot of teenagers are, I just happened to be there {Mexico} when all of those things took place. There was no other American influence in that area. I was absorbed into that culture.”

She didn’t know it at the time, but Balwin would return to and maintain connections with people from that region in Southern Mexico and also later in Guatemala. These connections ultimately impacted her whole sense of identity, and cultural outlook. This cultural impact makes it so that her entire self has been altered in an unchangeable way. “I’ve maintained connections there, true connections,” Baldwin said. “I’ve lived a long time now in bits and pieces with those same values and with those same people.”

One Woman, Multiple Worlds

Many students hold their experiences abroad dear and then move on. But Baldwin’s cultural experiences were so powerful, she couldn’t return to the normalcy she had known. When she returned to the United States entirely fluent, she was hungry for more. She somehow felt that a part of her was still in Mexico and Guatemala. Baldwin touched on how cultural fluidity can impact how she relates to others. Her own cultural identity is adaptable, flexible and open. 

To give readers an idea of where Baldwin was--relational space between Mexico and Guatemala.
Map of Mexican Regions in Relation to Guatemala. Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia

Ultimately, Baldwin’s global mobility and cultural fluidity has proven to impact everything. The way she lives, who she is as a person, and the manner in which she teaches. She expressed that she often feels like she thinks differently than those around her. This is a common experience among Cross Culture kids and adults. “I probably think differently, and feel differently, and act differently than a lot of my friends and family because of what I’ve seen, starting from an early age,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin spoke on the importance of meaningful interaction with cultures. She said, “You become different in how you think, and how you perceive other people. What you think you’re supposed to be doing. What your place is, and what you are called to do or be.” 

She expressed the sentiment of floating between two different worlds, having two homes. “Out of the last four people I texted, three of them are from Guatemala,” Baldwin said. She goes back to Huehuetenango, Guatemala every year, all the while maintaining a life and a family in the United States. 

The Road to Education  

In addition to her ability to deeply identify with cultures outside of the United States, Baldwin is also is geographically mobile in adulthood due to her husband’s military service. Ultimately, it was the constant movement throughout the nation that led her into education. Her degree in intercultural communications, bilingual education and Spanish allowed for a job position anywhere. She realizes that authentic interaction is paramount to education. Her cultural fluidity allows Baldwin to transcend difficult barriers that can often bar educators from reaching their students in ways that enhance an overall learning experience. 

To show Baldwin's experience as an ESL specialist.
Baldwin specializes in English as a Second Language. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Throughout her education career, Baldwin has taught kindergarten through college level. Her cultural fluidity has been a major influence in her style of teaching. This influence is chiefly seen in the way that she seeks to form genuine connections with her students, as she did with other cultures. The opportunities Baldwin has had help her see how different people learn. Additionally, it helps show her what she can do to improve their educational experience altogether. 

“What those cultures give you becomes something you protect and internally hold within,” Baldwin said. “You take bits and pieces with you from those experiences, and they become a part of you.” Being fluent in another language is not synonymous to being fluent in another culture. All  of the connections Baldwin has made are an immediate derivative of the diverse involvement and willing interaction she’s had with Mexican, Guatemalan and American culture.  

Continued Cultural Fluidity

Today, Baldwin is an ESL and literacy intervention specialist in school District 11 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is heavily involved with a program called Ixim Solidarity. The program began as a water purification effort, and later evolved into a solidarity mission for the people of Guatemala. Baldwin translates in medical clinics, and trains teachers in curriculum development and instructional strategies. She also translates bookkeeping, and works with sponsored young women to help them get educated and find jobs. She says that her duties embody her professional and personal values. 

To learn more about Ixim Solidarity, watch this video!

Baldwin’s cultural fluidity is a direct source of understanding and ultimately cultivates her desire to do and be more. 

“Those things {cultural experiences} are helping me! But they’re helping me to help other people,” Baldwin said. “I believe I’ve had great opportunities. And if I’ve been able to do something with the opportunities and gifts that I’ve been given, then I will keep doing it because that’s my goal.”

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