Traveling Suitcase Best Borrower Interview

As part of Internation Education Week, the Center interviewed Elba Nash, a teacher at Dolgeville High School in New York and a frequent borrower of our Traveling Suitcases.

Traveling Suitcase Best Borrower Interview

November 15, 2018

The Outreach Program has various resources to help K-12 teachers integrate Latin America into their curriculum. One of those resources is our Traveling Suitcase program. For this article, we interviewed Elba Nash, a teacher at Dolgeville High School in New York and a frequent borrower of our Suitcases. Ms. Nash teaches accelerated Spanish to 8th graders, and college-level Spanish 2, 3, and 4 to high school students.

What inspired you to teach Spanish and how long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for about 15 years, I come from a family of teachers, my grandmother was a teacher, my mother and two of my aunts were teachers. I actually went a different path, I went to law school in Panama, but I’m here now in the U.S., and I believe in education. I want to help students see the big picture and become compassionate world citizens, to see beyond and not be close-minded.

How did you hear about our Traveling Suitcase program?

It all began with a Google search, I was looking for something cultural. I looked around and finally found a program at the University of New Mexico to borrow “cultural suitcases.” I sent an email to someone from their program, spoke with her and she told me they only send within New Mexico. But, she said, I know of another university that has this program, the University of Florida. I looked around many different departments online until I found yours.

How many years have you been borrowing?

About three to four years; since 2015.

Which is your favorite suitcase?

I think I mostly borrow the same suitcase over and over again: Indigenous peoples box 1 – it’s the one that has traditional clothing; the kids love it.

What advice do you have for teachers who are using a suitcase for the first time?

Teachers should have some type of video accompanying whatever they are trying to present – teachers need to be creative. It’s nice to show the students the items, but you also need to be prepared. You have to excite their curiosity and get the students involved.

How many students would you say have participated in a Traveling Suitcase lesson?

Around 20 students per class. That’s just for the lesson. This last suitcase, we used it for School Activity Day and we had the items displayed and students explained what they were and where they are from. The auditorium was full of students; this was a day to explain clubs and activities students could get involved in.

What are some reactions you get from students while using the suitcases?

They are always amazed, even if they saw it last year, they are always excited. From the first time that they see it, the following year they will still be amazed. They say, “I want to touch this!” “I can’t believe it’s made out of natural food or materials.” And then I tell them this is hand-crafted, and I tell them to close their eyes and imagine these ladies just working all day long - these are special items to them. Look at the different patterns, this is all creative art. Then the students get it and they are amazed. I tell them: they use these things in their everyday lives, they use this for fishing, this to poke the seeds in the ground. And the students, they always have positive feedback. It’s a happy environment and breaks up the standard school day.

I love the fact that I can talk to them about culture. I always try to incorporate culture into my lesson, even if it’s just a proverb or a saying, but to have the products there for the students to see and touch. One thing is to talk, talk, talk, another is to show them that there is something else out there in the world.

Is there a certain topic which you would like to see as a suitcase option?

Maybe authentic comics that children actually read in Hispanic countries, authentic toys, games across different countries. It’s really important to have authentic things.

Our Traveling Suitcases are a great resource for K-12 teachers that would like to incorporate a more hands-on experience of Latin American culture into their curriculums. You can learn more about the program on the Outreach website, or contact the Outreach unit via email at

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