2022 Hall of Fame Nominee
2022 Finalist from PNCFL
Growing up, my dad was an amateur ham radio operator and he would make contacts with others all across the globe. We waited in anticipation for their postcard to arrive so that we could research anything and everything about their country in our set of encyclopedias. This spark of curiosity carried through well into my high school years when I signed up for my first Spanish class. I wanted to learn Spanish because I was so eager to help my classmates who were native Spanish speakers; I was frustrated that the teachers and administration didn’t do more for them in our education system.
During the summers, our community had many migrant workers that would come to work the sugar beet fields and I would teach my swim lessons in Spanish. With these experiences, I discovered my passion for teaching and for Spanish. Being bilingual is the greatest gift that I have to give to my students. I can relate to them because I grew up in a rural, small, mostly homogenous community and I can help them see the world in a new lens. My Spanish, Señor Swanson, helped me realize that there was more to the small town where I grew up and he encouraged me to travel and see the world. I expose my students to the same diversity by introducing them to Gaudí’s architecture in Cataluña, to the Muxes of Mexico, to ecotourism in Costa Rica. They are of the mindset that we should “keep doing what we have always done because it has always worked for us.” To me, the greatest value of language learning is creating global citizens. I do not expect my students to be perfect Spanish speakers, but I do expect to look through a cultural lens and understand that it isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it is just different, and that is what makes us truly diverse. When we examine our products, practices and perspectives and introspectively evaluate them and compare them to another culture, we truly are able to grow; either in ideologies or in understanding. The value of learning another language helps us recognize in ourselves our own strengths and weaknesses and challenges us to be better global citizens. I often take into account Ralph Waldo Emerson’s definition of success: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” I know that I cannot consider my journey to success over, I do know that within the realm of world languages and pedagogies, I am able to enlighten my students and help them become better global citizens.