Costa Rican student gets Radford University experience for a week

Johnny Picado, an aspiring special education teacher and student at Universidad Estatal a Distancia in Costa Rica, visited Radford University in the fall semester to learn more about his chosen profession and higher education in the United States.
Johnny Picado

When Johnny Picado was growing up in Costa Rica, he loved playing the role of teacher to his cousins when they needed help with a challenging subject.

“If they struggled with something, I would help them,” Picado said. “I would be a teacher to them. I’ve always liked education, and now I want to help children with special needs.”

Picado, an aspiring special education teacher, is a student at Universidad Estatal a Distancia in Costa Rica. His university sent him to visit Radford University for a week during the fall semester to learn more about his chosen profession and higher education in the United States. Picado’s school sent another student to Columbia in South America, and in previous years, has sent students to Australia, Japan and Peru.

Picado’s college classes in Costa Rica are online, and sitting in a physical university classroom at Radford was a first for him. “Everyone is so nice here,” he said near the end of his visit and just hours before hopping on connecting flights from Roanoke to Atlanta to Costa Rica. “It was so nice to be in the classroom and share with other people and listen to the professors speak.”

Part of his educational experience involved on-site visits with Radford University education majors to local elementary and high schools. “They taught me so many things,” he said of the RU students. “They gave me advice and told me how they work and prepare. They taught me a lot about how to manage a group of children, and they taught me about classroom resources and co-teaching.”

Picado was especially interested in how teachers worked with students with disabilities and said he would share with his professors and colleagues back home how those students were included in the general classrooms.

Faculty in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership (STEL) hosted Picado and planned his education experiences throughout the week. “We set a full schedule for Johnny, and he has been enthusiastic about trying everything we put before him,” STEL Assistant Director and Associate Professor Brenda-Jean Tyler said.

Picado’s week included time for fun and out-of-classroom experiences, too.

“I went shopping, and I went to the Selu Conservancy – it reminded me a lot of farms in Costa Rica – and I went bowling here. It was my first time,” he explained, sitting in the Bonnie game room as billiard balls clacked on the tables behind him.

Gabriel Hernandez took it upon himself to ensure Picado enjoyed his Radford University experience. The two attended classes together, and Hernandez included Picado in the Latino Student Alliance, which meets on campus each Wednesday night. After the club meeting, the two went on to a salsa night in Blacksburg.

“He enjoyed it and expressed how different it was from where he is from,” said Hernandez, a graduate student from Harrisonburg who is earning a master’s degree in special education.

As he talked more about Radford, Picado mentioned many things that had stood out to him over the past few days. “You know what has stuck with me?” he asked. “That Radford University is such an inclusive university.”

Picado said he was thrilled when he learned his school was sending him to Radford. The decision followed a thorough application process in which Picado had to write an essay, list his certifications and prove he could speak English, which he began learning through an intense 10-month course only four years ago.

“I showed them all of those things, and they chose me,” Picado said. “I was so excited to learn I was coming here. They gave me this great opportunity to learn many things and to learn more about teaching.”

Jan 10, 2018
Chad Osborne