The fall semester at Lighthouse for Learning will provide area residents with a wide array of opportunities to learn new skills, broaden their horizons and enhance the quality of their life.

One such course is conversational Spanish II, taught by Ingrid Cooper.

Cooper was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and spent most of her life in that country where, as an adult, she was employed with a telecommunications company and promoted up the ranks from human resources supervisor to director of governmental affairs.

In 1991, Cooper met her husband, Trenton Cooper, in Venezuela, where he was working for a U.S. telecommunications company. The two wed and combined their families the following year.

Trenton’s career then took their family to Mexico for two years, where Cooper studied English in anticipation of moving to the United States and their youngest, Pablo Gonzalez, studied architecture. When the Coopers moved to the United States in 1999, the family chose to reside in Waxahachie, near the Dallas office of Trenton’s employer and close to his former residence of Cedar Hill.

Cooper immediately began her teaching career, working as a Spanish instructor for Navarro College and Waxahachie ISD’s continuing education program, Lighthouse for Learning.

“Education is very important,” Cooper said. “I believe when you learn something new, you gain confidence and security which will provide you with additional opportunities.”

She is certified in Venezuela and the United States as a labor rights attorney and has a bachelor’s degree in business management/administration, an associate’s degree in paralegal, and is working to obtain a master’s degree in Spanish linguistics. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Their son, Pablo Gonzalez, is pursuing a master’s degree in international finance in Chili. Another son, Marcos Gonzalez, holds a degree in business and is hoping to teach. Their third son, J.T. Cooper, owns and operates a telecommunications business after attending North Texas Sate University.

International travel is a big part of Cooper’s life and she believes it contributes to a person’s education and enjoyment of life.

In addition to twice-a-year trips to Venezuela to be with family, Cooper has taken business trips lasting from one to six months with her husband to Argentina, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The Coopers have filled their home with treasures from vacations around the world: a chandelier from Venice, Italy; a statuette from Spain; a cuckoo clock from Germany; and art collected from other points around the globe.

“Every time we travel, we bring one special something back,” said Cooper, who believes it’s important to know more than one language.

“I believe that people who know more than their own (native) language are more likely to have an open mind to understand another culture,” she said. “We have always encouraged our children to broaden their horizons by becoming multicultural. I firmly believe that learning a second language and living in a foreign country provides you with a more global perspective on life in general.”

She especially believes it is beneficial to learn Spanish.

“Right now, with the growing Hispanic population and the ever-increasing globalization of the economy, knowing the Spanish language gives one a greater opportunity for a good job and promotion. It is very good for business,” said Cooper, who recommends completing at least two years of Spanish in high school and two more in college.

“It can add fun to your life, help you enjoy life,” said Cooper, listing benefits such as meeting new friends, getting to know neighbors and helping people as a volunteer.

Cooper, who completed an English immersion course at University of Texas at Arlington in 2000, also believes it is important for Spanish-speaking individuals to learn how to speak English well.

“People that come to America should learn English. This will help them understand the culture that they are working in and identify opportunities for them that they may not encounter if they only spoke Spanish,” she said. “While they can exist without learning English, I believe their life will be much more difficult.”

During the past eight years, Cooper has taught Spanish to a class of 30 Midlothian ISD teachers and administrators, Spanish for nursing, Spanish for managers, beginning Spanish I and II and Spanish GED through Navarro College.

For more information about courses offered through Waxahachie Lighthouse for Learning, call Melissa Cobb at (972) 923-4631, ext. 142.

E-mail Jennifer at jennifer.howell@waxahachiedailylight.com