The last thing I imagined doing when I was learning foreign languages in Colombia, South America, my home, was teaching Spanish. Ever since I was a child I had a passion for learning other languages. This passion was instilled by my father, who taught himself English, French and German. Later in college, the prospect of teaching for the rest of my life was not a first call. I imagined myself in the future learning the art of simultaneous translating for conferences all around the world.
That was my dream until I met my American Literature professor, Angel. That was his last name and he in fact became an angel to me. Professor Angel had written many books and had taught himself, like my father, many languages. As a student in his class, I would travel to distant countries through his teaching. I felt his passion for teaching other cultures, and this inspired me.
Later, when I came to the States, I had to train my brain when I started teaching my own language. This was not an easy task, since Spanish came naturally to me. I had to learn how to teach grammar to non- native speakers. Eventually I started reading more about my own culture and to my surprise, I was fascinated by all the differences and similarities I found within Hispanic countries.
When I am in the classroom, I love to teach culture. Culture creates a bridge to better understand all people. My students are fascinated by learning manners, different ways of relating to one another, idioms, and songs. They also love to learn about “authentic” recipes from different countries. In one of my favorite lessons, students are asked to research a Hispanic Holiday and then find a dessert that people eat on in that particular day. Then, they give a presentation, in Spanish, on that particular Holiday, and at the end they sample the desserts.
I also love the fact that I can share my Catholic faith in class since it is tied up with many aspects of the Hispanic Culture. In fact, many of our traditions and festivities are related to the Catholic faith. For instance, the celebration of the Sacraments are so important, that we choose godparents or “padrinos” carefully because they become part of our family. I explain to my students that even when we make plans for the future we say “ Si Dios quiere” (God willing). We even ask for our parents’ blessing. In class,we pray in Spanish every day, and one day after school Mass, I didn’t start the prayer and one student asked: “aren’t we going to pray?" That made me smile.