Granton Welcomes New Educators
 from South America

Cristopher Marquez Family 2021

Cristopher Marquez, his wife Loreto Lopez and their daughters Valentina and Amanda, have moved to
Granton from Chile, after Marquez and Lopez accepted positions at the Granton Area School District.
Valorie Brecht/Clark County Press



By Valorie Brecht  

Five thousand five hundred thirty miles away from familiar, a pair of Chilean teachers have found a new home.

“We are starting once again from zero, which is probably the most beautiful thing,” said Cristopher Marquez.

Marquez and his wife Loreto Lopez are working for the Granton Area School District this year. Marquez is teaching Spanish for grades six thru 12 and Lopez is serving as an English language learners’ aide, with a focus on elementary-age students.

Coming to Granton is a new adventure for this couple. They had been living in Colina, a city about 20 miles north of Chile’s capital city of Santiago, with their two daughters. Marquez and Lopez are certified teachers. In Chile, Marquez taught English as a second language and theater; and Lopez taught Spanish for third and fourth grade, and science for fourth through eighth grade. A couple of years ago, they started thinking about moving to another country. It wasn’t that they were discontent with their jobs or their lives, they said, but they were looking to get outside their comfort zone.”

“Two things were important to us – one was our daughter’s education. We wanted them to know a new culture and new experiences and learn a new language. The second thing was we wanted to improve our careers and our kills as teachers,” said Marquez.

Once they decided to make the move, they had to figure out where to go. They had been considering somewhere in Europe, like Norway or Holland. But they had connections to the U.S. as well. In 2015, Marquez studied six months at UW-Oshkosh as part of a study abroad experience.

“I fell in love with the culture. The people in Wisconsin are very kind. I had a wonderful, fun experience. And the nature the environment is beautiful,” said Marquez.

He shared all his thoughts about Wisconsin with Lopez, and she brought it up when they were talking about moving.

“Loreto said, ‘It sounds like a wonderful place. Why not go there?’” said Marquez.

They decided to apply for jobs in Wisconsin. They got in contact with Marquez’s friend Carla Ferrer, whom he met during his study abroad experience as a classmate. She told them about a job site to apply for teaching jobs. Marquez and Lopez started applying for jobs in March or April. A lot of employers were no longer interested once they found out the applicants were from another country. Still, it didn’t take long for the couple to get job offers.

“Loreto got four or five offers and I got three or four,” said Marquez.

One of Marquez’s offers was from Granton.

“I was thinking, ‘Is this actually happening?’ I got an email from [Granton Principal] Mrs. [Amanda] Kraus April 25. She said, “I know you’re living in Chile’ but agreed to do a Zoom meeting. I was so excited… and very nervous.”

The initial interview went well, and Marquez was invited to do a second interview, this time with superintendent Jim Kuchta. The interview went well also, and Marquez was offered the job. Kuchta asked about Marquez’s family and Lopez ended up joining the Zoom call. She was offered a job too, which was the icing on the cake. The couple had been planning on one of them getting a teaching job and whoever didn’t get the job would find some other work in the area.

It was like a dream for us, to get to work at the same school and take our girls there,” said Lopez.

The interview fell on April 29, Marquez’s birthday.

“It was one of the most beautiful gifts when Mr. Kuchta said we could start the paperwork [to come to the U.S. to teach],” said Marquez.

However, the process of obtaining the necessary visas was anything but easy, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

“With the quarantine, everything was closed. We called the U.S. embassy, but it was closed,” said Lopez.

Lopez and Marquez submitted proof of their teaching credentials to the school district, along with a bunch of forms they had to complete. The school district reviewed everything and sent all the paperwork back. Lopez and Marquez were finally able to get through to the U.S. embassy, but there was one problem.

“They told us, ‘We got an appointment for you for 2022,’” said Marquez. “So, we told Mr. Kuchta about it, and he got in contact with [U.S. Senator] Tammy Baldwin.”

The two teachers had to fill out another application and a week later, they got an interview with the U.S. embassy. After being cleared to work in the U.S. though, the adventure was just beginning.

Lopez and Marquez had to sell everything and consolidate their belongings into one large suitcase, one small suitcase and one carry-on bag for each family member. The family of four flew to the U.S. the first week of August and arrived at the Chicago airport around 3 p.m. After being dropped off at the bus station, they found themselves in a tough spot.

“We couldn’t find a hotel because most would only take a credit card, but we just had cash… We walked around for two hours. Our phones didn’t work, and we had no internet. We were exhausted, desperate [and] hungry,” said Marquez.

Thankfully for them, a few individuals stepped in to help. A homeless man helped carry their luggage, then out of nowhere, they ran into a couple who offered to help. The man called an Uber and the woman called a taxi, since they needed two vehicles to accommodate all the people and luggage and paid for both before they realized it. Then the couple stayed there until the taxis arrived.

“They were like angels to us,” said Marquez.

The Marquez-Lopez family made it to a hotel that once again, only took cards. However, they tried swiping a card that was tied to a matched savings account they had in Chile, and it worked.

The next day, they took a bus to Appleton where they met Ferrer. The day after, they finally made it to Granton to the house Kraus had found for them prior to their arrival. After that was a whirlwind of getting settled into their home, meeting the school staff and starting teaching. The community stepped in to help in various ways. For example, a fellow teacher drove them to Wausau to get them set up with Social Security numbers. Another community member drove Marquez to Eau Claire to pick up a washer and dryer.

“Everyone is asking us, ‘Do you need anything?’” said Marquez.

Lopez and Marquez said they appreciated all those who have helped make the transition that much easier, especially Kraus, Kuchta, Alice Painter, Doug and Joye Eichten, and their landlord.

“We are so blessed. Everyone has been so kind; we feel at home,” said Lopez. “I thought we would feel more alone, but we have friends here.”

School has gotten off to a good start, said Lopez and Marquez, even though if is very different than what they are used to. They said in Chile it was common to have 45 kids in a class with 10 to 12 special needs students per class, and they had to create separate assignments to cater to different academic abilities. With the smaller class sizes at Granton, it is easier to ‘take care of learning processes for each student and help them personally,” Marquez said.

They are looking forward to getting to know the students more and how to best teach them, learning about a new culture and sharing some of their own.

Looking back on their short time in the U.S. so far, the main emotion they feel is gratitude.

“We can’t be more blessed. To summarize the past three weeks in one word – it’s happiness,” said Marquez. “The best way we can return everything done for us, is to do our job the best we can.”

Note by the webmaster: the original article included this final sentence. For more about Marquez and Lopez, and the rest of the new staff members at the Granton Area School District, see the story later on in this week’s issue.


Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

September 1, 2021

Transcribed by Dolores M. Kenyon, September 2, 2021.

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, September 5, 2021. 

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