Monday, July 23, 2012

My teacher story - linky party!

We all come to the classroom with a story. Some are similar to others while some are very distinctive. What's YOUR teacher story? How did you get to the classroom? Has it always been a lifelong dream or did you come after being in another profession?

My teacher story is pretty straightforward, but how I got into bilingual education is an interesting path.

I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was really young.  I loved all the teachers I had year after year, and knew that I wanted to follow in their footsteps.  I worked in a daycare as an afternoon/summer job in high school, and declared my education major as soon as I started college.  Well...I guess there was like ONE week in High School where I considered going into psychology (because I found that class fascinating) but even just IMAGINING not going into teaching left me with an unsettling feeling inside, so I quickly nixed that idea. :)

My journey toward becoming a bilingual/ESL teacher, however, is a little more interesting - mostly because it seemed that I tried resisting it every step of the way.  But for that story, I have to start with why I wanted to learn Spanish in the first place.  Growing up, my best friend's family spoke Spanish.  She didn't speak it much, but the idea of learning another language fascinated me.  I decided that when I had the chance, I wanted to learn Spanish, so that I could understand what her parents were saying.  My first opportunity came in 8th grade - I loved the class, so I took every possible Spanish class that I could during high school (which even included sacrificing a semester of band to do so!).  

Entering college, I decided that I wanted to at least maintain what Spanish I had already learned, and decided that I could probably pursue a minor in Spanish (because my first love was education).  However, during my sophomore year, I chose to take a Spanish course called Spanish for Service Professionals, which was a more personalized class of how you could use Spanish within your given major.  It was a difficult class, but very enjoyable - I told myself that if I survived that class, and thrived in it, I would consider changing from a Spanish minor to a double major with Spanish and education.  So, that happened, and I adjusted my course path to include more Spanish along the way.

That same semester, I took an education course which linked my class up with 5th grade pen-pals from a nearby inner-city school.  I learned that my penpal was in a "bilingual" class (which I look back on today and realize it is more ESL than bilingual) and was fascinated by the idea.  I got permission from my professor to go visit the school for a day, to see how that classroom looked, and I was intrigued.

Fast forward to senior year and student teaching - I made the decision to pursue a bilingual teaching placement, and landed in a "bilingual" kindergarten classroom (again, I put that in quotes, because while the students all were native Spanish speakers, this school was not teaching them first in their native language, it was only expecting them to learn to read and write in English.  Yet the school still called it bilingual...).  I loved the experience.  

So when I started sending out applications, I didn't discount any bilingual opportunities.  I wasn't necessarily seeking out only bilingual opportunities, but I didn't want to snub my nose at any offers!  And the offer that I eventually accepted happened to be for a bilingual second-grade classroom.  Taught bilingual second grade for two years, and then bilingual first grade for one.  I also took all the required classes to earn both my bilingual and ESL endorsements.  This year I made the decision to move to a different district, and accepted an offer to teach Bilingual/ESL 4th grade (how it exactly will end up being, I'm told will be based on the needs of the students.  Which makes perfect sense to me). 

While I love Spanish, I am actually really excited for the opportunity to actually teach in English this year, while still using my Spanish to keep it from getting rusty!  It can be exhausting, though, trying to remember all the vocabulary for teaching each concept in your non-native language, not to mention having to find alternate ways to explain concepts when your vocabulary is limited.  I am in the unique position to know EXACTLY how my students can feel at times, when trying to master a new language, and I cannot wait to see what this year will bring. :D


  1. I love your story, Stephanie, and you inspired me to write mine. Our stories are very similar!

  2. Totally cool story!! Good luck for the upcoming school year! Did you stay what state you teach in? I know Texas schools value those who speak other languages, especially Spanish. Thanks for linking up and sharing! :)

    Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes

  3. I can't wait to hear the 4th grade stories! :) I just had a conversation with some of the middle school teachers about how funny translating notes home can be as they get older. I'll have to save the details for a private conversation though. ;)