The following is a guest post written by Katherine Bluemel, a Spanish teacher in Missouri. A native of Barranquilla, Colombia, Katherine loves to honor her culture in the classroom and also hosts her own YouTube channel, sharing weekly videos on tech tutorials, celebrations and interviews. Learn more about Katherine on her blog and Twitter or Facebook.
Hola! I’m Seño Bluemel – that’s what my students call me. I was raised in Barranquilla, a city located in the northern part of the Colombian Caribbean Region. Spanish was the only language I knew until I was 18 and came to live in the USA, when I had to learn to speak English.
Some of my fondest memories of my childhood include dressing up for Carnavales; picking up mangoes, oranges, and plums from Grandma’s backyard; playing “yaces” (Jacks) with my friends; and sitting out by my front porch with my friends while listening to scary stories about La Llorona.
Most of the 18 years I lived in Colombia, I spent going to school. Attending school was a privilege in my country that not all children had. I was grateful my mom had a job that made it possible. I felt empowered to have an education, so I wanted to give back. I decided to teach kids in my neighborhood who couldn’t attend school.
KATHERINE DRESSES UP FOR CARNAVAL IN COLOMBIA IN 1997.
I would teach them how to read, write, and do math every afternoon after coming home from school. This is when my passion for teaching began.
However, when I came to the USA, I had to start all over again. At age 18, I had to learn how to speak, read, and write in English. Nevertheless, my passion for learning and teaching propelled me to work hard and start again.
Let me just say I had to start from the bottom.
In 2018, after taking some time to learn to speak the language, get accustomed to the new culture, being a wife and mother to my three teenagers, I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education in Modern Languages Spanish and began my first teaching job in August as a middle school Spanish teacher.
SENO BLUEMEL WITH HER HUSBAND AND THREE KIDS AFTER GRADUATING FROM COLLEGE IN 2018.
Immersing Students in Spanish Culture
Being a Spanish teacher for me is more than teaching my native language and its words and grammar rules. It’s about sharing my story and the stories of those who speak the language. This is why I strive to foster a classroom environment that sparks curiosity in other cultures and peoples. Each of the four walls in my classroom communicates a welcoming message about embracing other cultures.
I strive to teach Spanish in authentic ways. One of my favorite activities to do in class is to bring my mom to talk to my students. They enjoy showing off their Spanish and teaching her some English words while she teaches them how to dance Vallenato.
Another favorite activity is to bring to class Spanish-speaking exchange students to talk to them. And, when the circumstances allow, I love taking them to a local Mexican restaurant to order their meal in Spanish. I encourage them to interact with the waiters and ask them questions in Spanish.
SENO BLUEMEL’S MOTHER VISITS HER CLASSROOM TO SPEAK SPANISH WITH THE STUDENTS.
Hearing about my upbringing in Colombia is one of students’ favorite things to do in class, especially when I play my favorite songs really loudly and start dancing with them.
If there is one thing I wish you could take with you after reading this post, it is that the most important thing about teaching students is to connect with them through your personal experiences. In the end, your story and your students’ stories are unique and will establish the foundation to connect to other languages and cultures.
Thank you, Seño Bluemel! Katherine is also one of our featured Inspiring Creators in the Discovery Library. Check out some of her Topics on Spanish education to use in your classroom.
While you’re in Discovery Library, be sure to also visit our special collection of Topics on Hispanic Heritage Month!
BONUS! Watch Katherine chat about teaching Spanish in the classroom.