"I found a potato."
Chris Johnson is a Spanish teacher at Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City Missouri and has been teaching since 2008. He is a co-advisor for Key Club at JCHS and helps organize and run the annual Paint The People 5k. He has been organizing the cultural exchange program since the summer of 2013 and really enjoys the interaction with all the families and exchange students.
He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors in Spanish Teaching, Minor in PE/Coaching and Business Management in 2009. He received his masters degree from William Woods University in Curriculum and Instruction in 2012.
Before entering the university, he lived for two years in Mexico City, Mexico as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he was able to develop and improve his language skills and learn about the diverse cultures that are within Mexico. He has traveled through Europe (England, Belgium, France and Spain) with his wife, Allison, as part of the BYU Ballroom Tour Team as one of the technicians.
Why bring this program to Jeff City?
Both of us work in the World Languages Department and love working with the youth in our community and have actively sought opportunities for our youth to have experiences that engage them in other cultures and perspectives. It can be difficult financially for some families to send one of their children on a trip to see some of the world around them. So, we decided to look for a program that would bring some of the world into their homes. Through Interway we are able to provide cultural experiences for families within the community without the expense of leaving the country.
Through the years that we have been coordinating this program we have seen some wonderful relationships develop between the host family and the exchange student. At the beginning they start off as strangers, but at the end when it is time to leave, they are saying goodbye to family. More than going on trips, seeing the Arch, Six Flags, or going to Chicago, the overwhelming response to the question, "What did you enjoy most about your stay?" has been "My time with the host family." It is a bonding experience that can last a lifetime.
As we continue to keep in contact with families that have hosted before, we find that they still communicate on a regular basis with their exchange student. In some cases they are invited to go to Spain to visit them in their home! It is exciting to hear a host student tell us they are going to visit their friend in Spain for the summer. A trip anywhere is much more enjoyable when you have someone to visit in the country in which you are visiting.