“Excelente!” Spanish teacher Jolie McCartney from Harrison High School encourages her students who are quickly picking up how to describe what they like in Spanish. This group of enthusiastic learners includes principals, teachers, counselors and other support staff from across the district who meet after school once a week to learn Spanish.
Nearly 50 TSC employees are enrolled in Spanish 101. McCartney says the focus is on speaking, listening and comprehending Spanish so they communicate better with Spanish-speaking students: “They don’t have to be perfect. They are learning Spanish because they care about their students. That’s what matters.”
“The TSC has more than 1,200 Spanish-speaking students in our schools,” says English Learner Coordinator Melissa Tanner. “It’s all about building better relationships with students and their families.”
East Tipp Middle School teacher Tim Hayes has taught math for 28 years and enrolled in the class to improve his Spanish: “Even though my knowledge of Spanish is rudimentary at best, even the slightest thing, such as responding to a sneeze with, ‘Salud’ piques the interest of the Spanish-speaking students in the room. In doing so, it opens a door for the non-Spanish speakers to expand their vocabularies beyond the English language. It's a minute gesture, but it goes a long way in building a good rapport with students, creating a welcoming environment, and encouraging the sharing and learning of other languages and cultures.”
“I currently have five students who speak very little English,” says McCutcheon Physical Education and Aquatics Instructor Kristi Kauffman. “The class seems to be helping. Even if I cannot communicate what I want, the students are learning that I am willing to take a little extra time to help them.”
Kauffman, who is in her 28th year of teaching, says she uses numbers a lot in her classes. “Recently, we were playing a rapid-fire game, and I chose to say the scores of the two competing teams in both English and Spanish. All students seemed slightly surprised at the use of Spanish numbers, but I could see smiling faces from my Spanish-speaking students. Some of them have picked up on it as well, and are trying to expand my vocabulary in Spanish.”
The teachers say the Spanish 101 class recognizes a growing need in our community and is another way to embrace different cultures. Funding for the class was made possible through grants.