Spanish Immersion Teacher in Takoma Park, MD
Mari is a dedicated and passionate educator. She currently teaches in the Spanish Immersion program at Rolling Terrace Elementary school as a first grade teacher. Both of her parents are from the island of Dominican Republic. Although Mari was born and raised in the United States, her family maintained a strong sense of their heritage and culture to ensure a purposefully balance within in their home. Mari’s Dominican-American upbringing would later help her draw from her own experiences as a second language learner. It would help her to connect and reach her future students who would also face the challenge of learning a new language within the school arena. Mari attended Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, MD and received her B.A. in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. She has served as a grade level team leader, co-leader for a boys mentoring program, and a tutor for the Commonweal Foundation an after school program which provides individualized literacy instruction for students who meet financial need criteria. Even during the weekends you will find Mari working with young children mentoring for young girls ages 5-16.
What inspired you to teach? I still remember my Kindergarten teacher and it was a pleasant memory. After learning all of the colors and identifying them by sight, I was given the opportunity to go in front of the class and hold up the color flash cards for students to recall. I was now helping my fellow classmates learn the colors. That was a powerful moment! It seems simple and most children could easily allow that memory to fade, but not only did it wake up a desire within, it changed me. I believe it was at that moment that I fell in love with teaching. Unbeknownst to my teacher, and myself at the time, that moment opened up my inner desire to keep on learning. I would continue learning so that I could share my knowledge with others. This teacher had found the code to unlock a shy and apprehensive student. Ever since then, I have wanted to recreate those moments and opportunities with as much frequency as possible to anyone I came in contact with, especially little ones. Today as a first grade teacher, I look to create that moment everyday for my students. I am not necessarily looking for the exact outcome that I received but I push to foster learning opportunities that lead to “aha moments, light bulbs going off, moments where persistence pays off, and moments of accomplishments and satisfaction at the end of the day. My students engage in meaningful class discussions, partner discovery, group work, fun and sharing, I also constantly seek to foster an emotionally safe classroom. I believe in empowering and encouraging my students to return to school the next day and do it all over again.
Why teach in the immersion program? As a child I remember my mother telling me how great it was that I was learning to read, write and speak English but that it was also equally important that I read, write and speak in my native language, Spanish. In conjunction with speaking Spanish in the home, every night my mother would read the Bible to us in Spanish. We would engage in great family discussions and Q&A and boy did it pay off. Up until my senior year of college I had never heard of immersion programs. When I was presented with the opportunity to join Montgomery County Public Schools and teach in my first language, I wasted no time in accepting the challenge. As I inquired more about the program, I learned that my future students would learn the language through the content areas of math and science. A majority of my students come from homes where English is the primary language. Many families have made the intentional decision to enroll their children in the program so that they would not only acquire a new language but learn an experience and value different cultures. When I see and hear my young students searching for the words and phrases to express themselves and their feelings, I am able to emphasize and apply not only the correct strategies I have learned as an educator but exercise patience and encourage them along the way.