How does your heritage impact you as a teacher?
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s take the opportunity to reflect on how heritage impacts us as teachers.
The way we recognize, understand, and live our own heritage manifests in various ways. But have you considered how a deeper dive into our own heritage can help us be more empathetic, effective guides to our students who are navigating their own? Whether our students are heritage speakers of the language they are learning or they are bringing a different cultural perspective to the classroom, the whole class benefits when we as teachers show up having done our own work.
We asked our World Languages team about how their heritage has impacted them as teachers, and here are some of their insights:
Paula Hidalgo, PhD
My heritage is the foundation of my identity, and I build where I go, what I believe, and who I want to be on top of it.
As a young adult, I left Argentina for England, where I completed my Master’s degree and taught Spanish, French and Italian. In Spain, I taught English, and in the U.S., I continued to teach languages.
At every step, I learned about the cultures I lived in, and I grew more intentional about teaching cultures and opening the eyes of my students the way my eyes had been opened to the beautiful mosaic of the human experience.
Throughout this process, the parts of my heritage I now realize are the most important to me are: the language (Spanish is an exquisite language), the dances, the philosophy of life, and the people. Those four things are present in my life, every day, without fail. I incorporate those things when I teach Spanish, and every time I do, I am reminded of how proud I am of my heritage.
My mostly Germanic heritage meant that I grew up eating pierogies, kielbasa, and sauerkraut, and as a function of my upbringing in western Pennsylvania, I say “gumband” instead of “rubber band” and “run the sweeper” rather than “vacuum.”
But I consider heritage to be not only where my bloodline comes from, but also the traditions I share with my family and friends and my own experiences. That is what I always want my students to know—everything you experience makes you who you are and you cannot judge anyone else’s experience; you can just try to learn what makes each person unique.
Reflect on your own personal heritage and ask yourself these questions.
If you would like to share your answers to these reflection questions above, email us at email@example.com and we’ll update this blog post to include your reflection!
Jennifer Kilmore is a veteran world language teacher with a background in in-person, hybrid, and virtual instruction. She is very involved in professional language organizations and is a member of American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL’s) Leadership in Leadership Initiative for Language Learning. She is passionate about the lasting positive influences that language learning has on students.Explore more related to this author