Dordt College News

Reversing roles: student teachers

May 24, 2013

It can’t be easy teaching a teacher, but that’s what Dordt College Senior Faby Castelan did this past semester as she helped Education Professor Kathleen VanTol develop her Spanish language skills.

Castelan was admittedly nervous when they began, but “Professor VanTol is great,” she said.

The two were getting VanTol ready for a trip to Nicaragua where she is conducting workshops with educators from Tesoros de Dios school. VanTol, who also serves as a consultant for other students and projects, wanted to be able to converse with Nicaraguans in their native tongue.

“Faby presented me with scenarios in Spanish about student concerns and helped me formulate my responses in Spanish,” said VanTol. “We’ve put together some very good materials for the workshops.”

Castelan also created “social stories” about topics such as washing hands, taking turns, and asking for help—topics that the teachers at Tesoros de Dios have asked VanTol to address. The school was recently given an iPad, so Castelan and VanTol put their stories on an iPad so that VanTol can share both pictures and audio.

“I feel much more prepared to converse in Spanish, but I still wish my Spanish skills were better,” said VanTol. Castelan believes VanTol is more prepared than she thinks.

“Professor VanTol will have an interpreter with her, but she’s learned so much and is now able to communicate and respond to people,” said Castelan.

The experience has proved valuable for Castelan who discovered that teaching one’s native language is not always easy.

“Professor VanTol would ask me why I said something in Spanish the way that I did. Sometimes I didn’t know why; I just knew it was right,” she laughed.

Castelan, who grew up knowing both English and Spanish, had never taken an entry level Spanish class in which she conjugated verbs or formally learned sentence structure. This experience forced her to think through those fundamental grammar rules and find ways to teach them—something that will be helpful in her future teaching career.

“I want to teach in an immersion school where students learn in both Spanish and English,” she said. Castelan has already done practice teaching in a Spanish immersion school.


Media Access: Download Word Version | High Resolution Image: 1 | 2