Spanish Teacher Señora James was born and raised in Mexico City. She is a Master Teacher at Graland who loves taking students on excursions around Denver for authentic language practice.
Impacting Students The introduction to Hispanic Colorado is one of my favorite third grade Spanish lessons. The lesson starts with the name of our state - Colorado - and wondering how and why it was named in Spanish. I help the students recall what they learned about immigration (in service learning and social studies) and focus on the push/pull factors that motivate people to move to a new home. With the help of a movable border (a jump rope) I show the students how the southern part of Colorado used to be part of Mexico. The residents did not cross a border into the US territory - the border crossed them! The students then work collaboratively in small groups to identify as many Spanish-sounding place names on Colorado maps. There is so much going on in this lesson: connection to other disciplines, authentic learning to places they may have visited, linguistic and phonetic skills in Spanish. The greatest impact, however, is the revelation of the border moving (with all the inhabitants in the area) and how that changed, influenced, and shaped what Colorado is today.
Lifelong Learner By far, the most impactful professional development in my teaching practice has been my graduate work on assessment. I fully embraced the concept of formative assessment -- a cycle of feedback, self-evaluation, goal setting, and skill mastery. I used to focus more on summative assessments that indicated what the students had learned. I now emphasize the process of learning and help the students engage actively in their own assessment.
Favorite Teaching Moment My favorite teaching moments at Graland actually happen off campus! Years ago, I used to take my fifth grade students to a Mexican bakery in North Denver. They practiced their Spanish in an authentic setting and tasted something new. Now, I take third graders to a farmer's market where they shop for fresh produce with a patient Spanish-speaking vendor.
Professional Passion For me, every skill and lesson has to connect to a bigger picture and have some purpose. I strive to embed everything I teach in a context that is relevant and interesting. Equally important is understanding each student who walks into my room - their likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Above all, the students need to feel valued and welcome in my class.
Feels Rewarded When... Former students tell me how they continued their studies in Spanish, traveled or lived in Spanish-speaking countries, and used what they learned in my class to enrich their own lives and connect with others.
Life Goals Visit South America, especially Ecuador and Peru.
Favorite Childhood Memory Celebrating my seventh birthday in London and getting a special treat from the head waiter at our hotel. He was from Spain and loved making me feel like a princesa on my special day.
Other than Graland, I Support I am on the Board of El Hogar, a non-profit that provides education and a safe and nurturing home to poor and disadvantaged children in Honduras. I lead service trips there every summer and work year round to support the work of this organization. In addition, I am the chair of the Outreach Commission at Christ Episcopal Church in Denver.
Joined Graland in... 1988 - A Master Teacher!
Also Known As ... Service Learning Coordinator, 5/6 Service Council Advisor, Schedule Design Task Force Member, Character Task Force Member
Hometown Mexico City, Mexico
Education Bachelor in Spanish from Colorado College Master's in curriculum, instruction and assessment from Regis University
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.