Like many students at Teachers College, Christine Espiritu started graduate school with one idea of what she wanted to do and where she wanted to go, and ended up somewhere completely different. A master's student in the International Education Development program with a focus on policy, Christine entered Teachers College thinking she wanted to work with international students. Previously she'd worked as a recruiter encouraging international students to come study in the United States. After completing all her policy requirements, however, she realized that her heart wasn't in policy. She went through a period of intense soul-searching, and luckily found herself in a museum education class taught by Hope Leichter.
Through Prof. Leichter, Espiritu became involved with the Family and Community as Educators program. This program has served as a way for Christine to combine her many interests; the family as educator, culture, and cooking. For her final project Christine is working on an educational cookbook for parents and children. She is currently looking for a literary agent and hopes to publish her cookbook.
While many cookbooks for children make claims about the educational value of cooking, Christine hopes to combine educational activities, recipes, historical facts, and background for parents on the role of the family as educator. She says of her cookbook, "I really try to connect different outlets which bring in community as educator, the school as educator, and the family as educator. But the sole theme is the family...but it's bringing in all these other theories that we learn here at TC."
Christine does bring her interest in international education to her current work. Her real interest lies in helping children understand and appreciate other cultures. "I'd like to draw in where products are from...like coffee beans. You can have a child look at a map of the world of where coffee beans come from. So that they see that we're all not alone here. That was really my focus in being an educator and going into the international field."
Christine says her book can appeal to families from many backgrounds and from around the world. "The audience is a family, that's my target. The audience is a family of any culture. The goal of the book is to bring the family together and use cooking as a way to show that even in the family moments of learning can take place. Once that school bell rings and you come home, you don't have to stop doing what you learned in class. Cooking is just a tool to bring it out again, to supplement it, to create different kinds of learning, to connect it."
Christine credits Prof. Leichter with helping her connect her different interests and try something different. "She's been my mentor through the whole thing. It's through courses that I've taken with her...that I was able to tie in what I've learned."
Christine built her project off of three inspiration words "family, cooking, culture." "It was just such a leap for me to try to do this because it was not what I thought I would be doing. I thought I would be a policy writer or working for the UN...I think this is so much better" Christine is using an unconventional method to address the core issues of education she's studied here at TC, such as assessment and real-world learning.
Christine hopes her book will be useful for families and connect school and home learning. Her ultimate goal is simply to help families grow closer and learn together. "I truly believe that I'm still addressing central issues on both sides; family and communities and the basic policy side...A big question is how do you assess a child's learning?...With family as educators it's just parents with their children and really seeing that they're making a connection between something they've learned in school and bringing it home to another environment...if they don't make that connection something's wrong because life goes on outside of school."