Cultural Crossover: Mia Helman
Mia Helman was 13 years old when her family moved to a foreign country. “I was starting a new school in a foreign land, and I had no skill speaking the language,” she says. “And there I was, walking into middle school in Beverly Hills, California, and I couldn’t speak a word of English.”
Mia grew up 1,500 miles south in Guadalajara, Mexico. “My grandfather was the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, and so he moved our family from Michigan to Mexico because of his work,” Mia explains. “I was born and raised in Mexico, and I loved the culture and the warmth of the people. It was home. But the Lord had a plan for me, He always does. And looking back, I can see his work and his grace woven through every part of my life.”
Mia credits an amazing ESL teacher she had during her first few years in the United States. “I can still remember her name, Mrs. Rosenthal,” she says fondly. After graduating high school, Mia’s connectedness to the local culture grew, and she had the opportunity to work with the San Marcos Unified School District migrant education department. She began teaching there in the summers exposing her to the Hispanic population in Southern California. “I saw a need for helping to bridge the gap for them from Spanish to English and it ignited a passion in my heart. I wanted to teach them not only English, but to also teach them cultural norms and about different people groups, and ultimately share the Gospel with them,” she recalls.
Fast-forward to today and Mia has remained in the United States, has been married for 26 years and has raised four amazing daughters. “I really see a lot of parallels in my life as God was preparing me for my ministry,” she says. Mia’s oldest daughter is adopted from Russia and came to the United States when she was 12 years old. “She didn’t know any English and she barely had a first grade education,” Mia says. Heeding God’s call to homeschool, Mia provided a solid Christian education for each of her children, which the Lord used to prepare her for going back into the classroom.
One of Mia’s goals for her students is to help them become culturally and globally aware. She wants them to be able to access another culture outside of themselves. “I love that we are a mission-minded school here at Woodcrest Christian,” she says. “Sending kids out to Belize and other areas of the world is great because learning Spanish is more than grammar and context. Language allows crossover of cultures and it helps students build their confidence to share God’s truth.”
Looking back at her last nine years of teaching Mia says, “Speaking Spanish and teaching Spanish, it’s just part of who I am. What I want most is to do His will and give Him the glory and for students to know there are limitless opportunities here in Southern California to share the Word…in English or Spanish.”