Spanish language students at Dakota Ridge High School are thrilled when they get assigned to Michelle Guerra's class.
"She showed me that learning Spanish could be fun," said former student Alex Lotze.
It was such a remarkable experience for Lotze that she nominated Guerra for the 9Teachers Who Care Award. For the last six years, Guerra has taught both traditional and honors Spanish language classes at Dakota Ridge High School in Littleton.
Earlier in her career, Guerra taught English to elementary students and adults in Mexico. She has also taught English as a second language in the U.S.
At Dakota Ridge, Guerra has found a home with students who respect her and whom she respects.
"I care greatly about the kids. Really, that's what gets me up in the morning: To see the kids and then, come up with something that's a fun way to learn Spanish."
Clases de la senora Guerra son muy divertido!
"I use music every day, and the kids love that," Guerra said. "I find that's a great way to get them invested in the class right away. We start off with a song and we keep the song going for about a week until they can sing it. Sometimes, we do a quiz on it.. or it's just for fun."
Guerra remembers that learning Spanish songs was the way she learned the language in high school. She also recalls what she was like as a teenager and adapts her curriculum.
"Language is about communication and so to make them communicate in the language, I have to start where they're at and move out, " explained Guerra. "As long as I try to connect the lesson back to something they're interested in and pull their experience into what my topic is.. then, I find they're pretty involved."
The students appreciate the "Spanish Only" rule in Guerra's classroom. Dakota Ridge student Carson Hume says "that really helps you learn it a lot better so you get a lot more exposure."
Hume and the other students recently created murals following a unit on Hispanic and European culture.
"We talked about how art is a vehicle for communication or personal, social, political and religious messages, " Guerra said. "It was very fun to have the kids get to produce their own work and their own message in Spanish."
Guerra also offers encouragement when the kids struggle in class. Her sincere interest gives the kids a big boost.
"She never fails to tell me how smart I am or what a wonderful young women I am growing up to become. Every compliment she gives me, reassures those dreams that she has allowed me to believe in," added Alex Lotze.
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