About me & My CI Journey

ABOUT ME: Updated 12-15-18 

I am a fully licensed, endorsed middle school Spanish teacher and (untitled) department head.  I teach (roughly) Spanish 1, Spanish 2, and Spanish 1B. I used to also teach Spanish 1A, but as our program has grown, we had to hire another teacher!  I currently teach 7th and 8th grade Spanish at small independent school in the mountain west region of the US.

In my role as SOMOS curriculum mentor, I work closely with the creator of the SOMOS/NOUS SOMMES curriculum to help teachers all over the world implement it successfully. 

As a presenter, I have been invited to present at local and national conferences on various topics including classroom management, starting the year, dramatizing text, interactive notebooks, and techniques for getting more input.  This summer, I will be doing the first ever SOMOS specific training for a small district who has requested it.  Hopefully, this will lead to more SOMOS specific trainings!  

I teach a World Language Methods class for pre-service and in-service language teachers in a graduate education program. In addition, I am also part of the coaching team for NTPRS (National TPRS Conference). 

 My work experience as a teacher includes: bilingual Headstart supervisor, 3rd grade teacher at a charter school, first and second grade Spanish at an independent school, and several years subbing.  I also used to run a children's ski program and teach bike safety to grades 4+. 

I am usually trying a lot of new things. I am fascinated by language acquisition and highly motivated to make language acquisition something accessible and positive for teachers and learners. I love working with other teachers as much as I love working with kids.  

I am grateful to teachers who somehow find the time to create and update their own blogs.  Their generosity, time, wisdom, and free resources have immeasurably improved my teaching.

If I can use this space to reflect on what works and improve how I teach, I will be successful.  If I help another struggling teacher along the way, well, that's even better.

My background is in theatre management and bicycle education and advocacy.  I have a Master's in Teaching and am licensed to teach elementary school, middle school, Spanish, and cycling. (Bike safety.) 

I live with two adorable cats, one adorable dog, one adorable husband, and way too many bicycles.  

My CI Journey

At the beginning: (Year 1)

When I was hired to teach middle school Spanish, I had the confidence that I could teach- I had been in the classroom for a few years and felt pretty good about my skills.  I had taught Spanish before but that previous job was hard as was my first year in a classroom, I had no curriculum, and my so-called mentor made me cry a lot.

I found a document with a loose scope and sequence that was on the school's website and another that was at complete odds with the first one.  I found a mis-matched set of Realidades textbooks, some at the Jr. High level and some high school/level 1.  I knew I wanted to create some routines in the class to keep myself sane as I was teaching four levels (four preps of Spanish) and also Outdoor Environmental Education (my fifth prep).

I worked so hard to make those textbooks interactive, scaffolded, differentiated, etc., etc.  But as anyone who has tried to make the textbook into something it is not, I was simply putting shiny glitter on something less savory.

I also felt incredibly frustrated that my honors students, who were expected to go in to Spanish 3 honors or the equivalent, were barely capable of speaking sentences, but they could do some real work with a conjugation table.  

I knew that it was all wrong, that I was working too hard for miserable results, and that something needed to change.

I looked for something else.
  I started reading blogs about lesson plans and found Martina Bex (comprehensibleclassroom.com).  She put together a comprehensive set of TPRS units with fairly easy to follow plans.  I really liked them, and started to read more about second language acquisition and the "why" behind the methodology.  It made immediate, intuitive sense.  (I know realize I was crazy lucky.)  I proposed doing it in my regular (not honors) classes, and my administrator gave me the approval.  

The change of tone and feeling in those classes was like night and day.  Unmotivated students were laughing, I was working half as much and having more fun, and there was so much more Spanish happening.  I could tell that I was doing a better job of teaching, and proposed teaching all my classes with TPRS. 

Although my first year I truly did not understand much of what I was doing, although I taught myself how to circle and devoured every blog about assessment, management, and proficiency based grades, I was still having much better days.  

At the end of the year, I got to put my desks in another room for testing, and loved it. Thus, going deskless!

I attended one two-day training with Von Ray over the summer.  It was awesome but I still did not know what I was doing.

By the beginning of my second year, all the Realidades books were donated, workbooks had been cut from my budget, money for novels was added, and desks were moved out.  Kids and families were really happy, and a couple of my students went from Spanish 1 to Spanish 3, while all my Spanish 2 kids tested above Spanish 3 honors. 

However, I also felt the extreme discomfort that comes from having a very successful program (7th and 8th grade) be compared to other programs (like K-6).  It was hard to hear parents, teachers, and kids be so negative, while at the same time being incredibly positive about the work I was doing.
I also worked on the Great Organizational Project.

Training: NTPRS16, Reno.  My mind was BLOWN!!! 

At the beginning of my third year, another colleague in middle school was hired to use CI/TPRS to teach 6th grade, and training was provided for the other language teachers.  (We brought Von Ray to our school, as he was pretty local at the time.) 

Our program became more successful!  Kids were coming back to tell me that they were doing really, really well in their Spanish honors classes.  (These weren't always kids who were in my honors classes, if you know what I mean.)  It was AWESOME!  I started feeling like I had a clue.  I got this at the end of the year.  It is one of my most cherished possessions. 

Training: Comprehensible Cascadia, NTPRS17, San Antonio, 1 day workshop with Von Ray, student in Fluency Fast class (advanced Spanish). Also, I spent a couple weeks in Guatemala. Again! 

In year 4, all the language teachers but two are using CI methodology  (OK, that means three out of five, and one of those is supposed to be doing it but is not) and our physical space and schedules have been reworked to be collaborative and allow for coaching and mentoring on my part, and peer observations and reflection time for all of us. 
I presented as part of Comprehensible Online and I received a TON of great feedback on my presentation and learned a lot about my classroom practice and myself by watching hours of video...of myself.  

Upcoming: I will be presenting at ACTFL this coming year (2018 convention) and at NTPRS (2018 Boston). In Boston, I will also be a coaching intern.  I have started collaborating more with other trainers and presenters, which is really pushing me to improve my skills and be more sure about what I am doing. 
After some training, then more, and even more, I feel very confident about what I am doing, why, and how.  I have a ton to learn still, but I am even more excited to collaborate and grow. 

Year 5
Presenting at ACTFL was incredible and mind blowing.  Doing demos with the CI Posse was inspiring and humbling and I learned so much.  Spending time at NTPRS as a coach and then attending my first IFLT was great.  I got to coach at a 2 day TPRS Books workshop with the immensely talented Craig Sheehy.  I continue to meet for 30 minutes a week with two other talented, experienced TPRS teachers via technology to try to stay motivated and focused.  And I have developed an obsession with trying to better explain how language is acquired, after spending hours listening to Bill Van Patten and watching his webinars. 

And, I finally took my OPI and Praxis and got endorsed as a world language teacher.  About time!

Upcoming: I will be co- presenting (with Laurie Clarcq) the first ever SOMOS specific training for a small district in 2019.  

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