PCHS Spanish students teaching English

PCHS Spanish students teaching English

By Shannon Sneed / Staff



Putnam County High School Spanish teacher Maureen Warner’s class is taking their education out into the community teaching life-based language skills to non-English speaking parents.

Along with other teachers in Putnam County Charter School System’s World Languages Department, including Geraldo Perez, Warner has worked to establish a district-wide program aimed at building a stronger community through communication and education.

“This is a movement,” said Warner, who sponsors the Putnam County High School Key Club, a student-led organization that teaches leadership through service to others.

Warner also noted in a recent interview, helping the community is part of the movement. “We are building something that is lasting,” Warner said, “this is not just a one-time project.”

Through the program, students get to see the teaching process. Students collaborate with teachers to plan lessons and deliver those lessons to parents. During the planning process, students have to learn what real-life needs are in the community and teach parents to communicate those needs in their day-to-day business.

It is thematic education at its best, Warner said. Based on situations, including looking for a job, going to the doctor and other life-lessons, the idea is to provide that need for the sake of the students because the student needs the parents, she said.

“We help the parents and the parents help the students-- it’s a circle,” Warner also noted.

“It’s a beautiful journey,” Warner said. “I have the blessing to do this in collaboration with our other Spanish teacher for all parents of Putnam County.”

The journey began for Warner when, while visiting her daughter who is a missionary in Honduras, she saw abandoned children, including several special needs children.

Warner noted they took life-saving supplies with them along with books to give the children hope and possibilities of a better existence.

Warner said the visit made a huge impact on her perspective of the holidays, leaving her aware of the materialistic view that is so widespread around the holidays.

She learned the impact of giving and set out to find ways she could inspire her students to help others.  Warner found establishing quality, caring relationships with her students was the basis for successfully connecting with them. “How does someone fall in love with social service if they’ve never experienced it themselves?” she said.

The key is to make lessons relevant to what kids are going through in their own lives, said Warner, adding the focus is not on just memorizing words. “Students can memorize words and not love their class -- mine do.”

Reaching out to all ages, students began volunteering to tutor kids in academic studies, including math, reading, social studies and science.

Warner said parents are always welcome during tutor time and the program allows them the opportunity to get actively involved in their children’s education while learning lessons themselves.

The Rev. Neftali Coronado, La Iglesia Bautista El Buen pastor, allows students the use of church facilities for free to conduct the meetings.

And, with the program completely free to the community, Warner advised students were learning the importance of giving back, expecting nothing in return.

 “It’s all about building relationships and service to others,” Warner said. “That’s how you make a difference.”

Besides stepping into the role of teachers, PCHS students are transcending typical book learning by going a step further and writing their own education material.

One lesson Warner’s class participated in was planning a trip to another country.

Instead of just a traditional book report on what that country is like, these world language students designed brochures documenting the trip using graphs and manuscript.

Although students were allowed freedom to be personally creative, they were required to include every aspect of the vacation including a detailed itinerary and expenses all in that country’s native dialect.

Students had to show exchange rates for that particular country, price of hotel accommodations, price of a tour guide, what the delicatessen native to that area was and how much it cost to eat there.

“They (students) decide what to market, what is the life expectancy of the area and the level of poverty,” Warner said.

Their research showed how different life in the U.S. is compared to the culture of other countries.

Students learned the government in other countries doesn’t pay for books, or even school, in some areas and education is considered a huge privilege.

“The strategy is about using language relevant to the life of the children taking a journey to this place,” Warner said.

She advised one of the byproducts of teaching on a more personal level is a greater level of participation from students, noting there are 21 students in her AP class, “the biggest class in PCHS history,” – and higher grades.

We will have the highest scores in the state, said Warner, and probably the nation, she continued.

“It may be a crazy goal, but we are shooting for 100 percent across the board,” Warner said.

A quick peek at her grade book showed the class is very close to their goal, with nearly every student in Warner’s class having midterm scores above 90. “We can beat any school around,” she said.

She acknowledges the program is a team effort that not only includes teachers and students, but requires the support of the entire district.

“I could not be more excited about Putnam County leadership and open minded to innovation,” Warner said, noting the classes are so successful because of the backing they get from PCCSS Superintendent Eric Arena, Assistant Superintendents Derick Austin and Kelly Roberts, and board of education members.

“They believe in innovation themselves,” said Warner, “and invite teachers to innovate project-based learning lessons,”


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