One of the benefits I see is that they learn from applying the language and through immersion. They do not need to translate words like adults. If you’re teaching, for example, you would use gestures, images, songs, and then the children will pick up the language quickly.
How did you become a Spanish teacher? Have you always wanted to teach?
I originally worked for a company called Language Stars, where we had contracts with several schools. Back then, I was also a director at one of the centers and working for Ideal Academy at the same time. When they closed, Principal Speight decided to keep me on board.
I’ve always loved working with children; I’ve been doing it for my entire professional career. I’ve even worked with children only a few months old, because at the language center we wanted to start introducing children to languages early on in order to build a solid language-learning foundation. Even if they weren’t using the language, they were gaining comprehension and being exposed to it. For example, if you stated a command, they would demonstrate that they understood.
Can you talk more about the benefits of children building that kind of foundation early on?
One of the benefits I see is that they learn from applying the language and through immersion. They do not need to translate words like adults. If you’re teaching, for example, you would use gestures, images, songs, and then the children will pick up the language quickly. It is important for them to learn at a young age so that as they get older, they can build upon this foundation from the previous years.
In other parts of the world, it is perfectly normal for most people to speak two or more languages. It’s a good idea for us to catch up with the rest of the world in this respect.
Do you teach them about different countries and cultures, too?
I recently went to Brazil and have since been introducing the Brazilian culture in my classroom. I fell in love with that country. In Brazil, they speak Portuguese – I do not want to limit students to Spanish-speaking countries only. I want them to see that whatever language they choose to learn – be it French, Italian, Portuguese, or whatever – that there are so many cultures to learn about. I don’t want to only teach them a new language, but open the doors for them to expand their cultural knowledge and have more intercultural experiences. I want them to learn that life is not limited to their neighborhood, Washington D.C., or the United States.
During Hispanic Heritage month, I introduce them to different Spanish-speaking countries, like Mexico, Panama, El Salvador and the others where some of our students come from. We learn how to make agua fresca and Mexican crafts, which I use to decorate my classroom.
What do you like about Friendship?
I love the sense of family here. You can go to anyone, ask them for a favor, and they’ll help you. They share resources, and there are plenty of resources at Friendship. Now I am part of a network of professionals that I can reach out to if I need anything. This is a strong community.
In addition, our professional development sessions are useful and hands on. Rather than just sitting and listening to someone, we might create a lesson plan or design an activity. We’ll explore what works and what doesn’t for our students.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you want to be sure to include in your spotlight?
I just want to reiterate that I love working with all children and specifically with those who are considered “at risk” in underserved communities. Sometimes I think they’re being programmed by the media to believe they can only achieve so much, but I want to show them that their potential is unlimited; there is so much they can learn and achieve. I want them to understand that they’re not going to learn anything if they don’t try.