Help Desk student Carl Larson recently interviewed Ms. Duhamel, a new teacher at BHS who teaches Spanish in the World Language Department
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching full-time for 3 years; I started off doing my student teaching at the Arlington Elementary in Lawrence at the grade 4 level, and from there I realized I wanted to teach at the high school level. While I was at Merrimack College, I also did student teaching from 2011-2014 at North Andover High School teaching Spanish to grades 9-12. Upon graduating from Merrimack College in 2014 with a double major in Secondary Education and Spanish, I received a job teaching Spanish at Tewksbury Memorial High School, where I was there for 2 years teaching Spanish to grades 9-11.
What prompted you to become a teacher? And why did you choose to teach this certain subject?
I had a really great (middle school) Spanish teacher (Mrs. Young); just by the way she came into class everyday, every kid felt as if they had a place; she genuinely connected with her students, and I think that’s something that is important not to lose sight of (with) being a teacher. Looking back now, and transitioning from student to teacher, having a teacher that is not only able to connect with you, but that you’re able to look up to when you come into class everyday, truly makes a difference.
Because Mrs. Young taught Spanish with such passion and enthusiasm, she made me want to teach Spanish. As soon as you walked into her classroom, it was warm and inviting. She loved what she did every single day. And whether we were learning about grammar, or vocab, or different cultures/traditions whether it be from Spain, Guatemala, or Peru, she did everything to the best of her ability to help her students. It’s something that I truly appreciate reflecting back on it today.
What brought you to BHS?
It’s funny because my whole entire family is from Burlington and they always speak so highly of Burlington in regards to the education they received. And seeing where my family is today, they are all successful in each of their respective fields: automotive, business, and engineering.
It’s something that I’ve always said to myself, If I ever had the opportunity to apply to Burlington, if a position was open, I would most definitely be willing to [apply there]. There was a position open this past summer and I’m so grateful that I was chosen. Even prior to coming to Burlington, I would always read about the different activities (i.e. World Language Week, World Language Clubs, and the exchange programs) they did to build community and partnerships with their students and between students on such a personal level.
What is the most important thing, in your opinion, that students learn in your class?
I think the most important thing that students learn in my class is to be empathetic and understanding. Especially since I’m teaching a language, it is so important for students to be able to understand each other, where they come from, and what they consider culture; and from that we can begin to understand people of different Spanish-speaking cultures. Every culture is different, and I want to encourage students to learn about all different cultures, not just the ones from Spanish-speaking countries.
What is your main goal for your class? (ex. hold a conversation, be fluent, etc.)
My main goal for my class—I have many goals, but I think one thing is just using empathy as kind of a point of focus, in order to help students be able to develop their speaking, through being able to speak to one another, ask each other questions, and to have students be able to respond and communicate in Spanish.
Language is the heart of the classroom and students should always be the ones who are and continue to speak to one another the most in the target language; students will be practicing how to communicate with one another through the great technology that we have here at BHS. Students will be making iMovies, writing a letter to a penpal, and will even do video calls/conferences in class with native Spanish speakers (my college professors/former Spanish teachers). Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are the 4 core skills that we learn in class; each and every day we practice these skills in order to better understand one another, and from that we can make significant progress towards our goal(s).
Do you think everyone should be bilingual? Or should everyone know Spanish?
I wouldn’t say I necessarily tell students that they have to take Spanish (because we have such a large department that offers multiple languages). We offer Spanish, Italian, Latin and French. I think the most important thing would be to promote all languages. I believe every student should be bilingual. Regardless of whatever profession you wish to pursue, many professions and internships truly look at students who are well rounded in regards to what skills are they able to bring to a job. Often, those students who have skills in multiple languages, students who are bilingual, have greater opportunities because they are able to either reach more clientele. Knowing more than one language will open many doors and opportunities for our students be well-prepared for the future.