Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Student Spotlight: Lana Stenger

by Ann Abbott

Do you think that all Spanish teachers teach high schoolers? Well, Lana Stenger is an example of what all language educators hope for in our educational system: she is a Spanish teacher in an elementary school. With school budgets getting slashed, it's sometimes hard to even hang on to the foreign language classes at high schools, and yet we know that students benefit when they are taught a foreign language in primary school.

If you already know you want to teach Spanish, or if working in a primary school for your Spanish CSL work has you thinking about teaching as a possible new career direction, read what Lana has to say.

"It has now been almost two full years since my graduation day at the University of Illinois. What a thought! It is hard to believe that it has actually been that long! After recently meeting with Señora Abbott, she asked if I would blog about what I have done since graduation day. Like many of you, I took the Community Based Learning course on campus to further my experience with the language and to get out into the community speaking Spanish. I was a Spanish Education major and the course was a great opportunity to gain experience communicating with Spanish outside of the classroom.

Today, I am an elementary school Spanish teacher. After hearing my job title, most people respond with something like, “No way! They teach Spanish in elementary school?” Well, in fact, they do. The next question normally is, “So… you teach English to Spanish speakers then?” Nope, wrong again. I teach Spanish to the English speaker. Although I have an ESL (English as a Second Language) endorsement, there are no non-native speakers of English in my classes. The elementary Spanish program in my school district is fairly new, as are most of the programs in the state. Our primary goal for the program is to introduce the “idea” of Spanish to the students. It is strictly an “exposure” program. This means that there is no pressure for the students to memorize vocabulary lists or to conjugate verbs, but only to get excited about the discovery of Spanish. The curriculum is a three year continuation of basic vocabulary in Spanish. On an average day in my classroom, you would find us singing a song or playing a game. The kids really enjoy coming to class and they are learning a great deal more than they think they are.

This is my second year of teaching and my first year of implementing a Spanish club in our school. The club has been an amazing experience. From former study abroad contacts, I have been able to connect our school with an elementary school in Spain for pen pals. The kids received letters written in Spanish from the students and wrote back in English. Not only are they getting the exposure of the written language, but they are learning so much about the average day for a 10 year old in northern Spain. The club is also a great way to incorporate other schools in our community. We plan on having the high school Spanish club come to our school for a meet and greet in Spanish. The kids are so excited to see what high schoolers are doing in their Spanish classes.

After graduation I’ve discovered that my love for Spanish is only growing and my love for teaching is following that pattern. I come to work everyday knowing that my students are excited about classroom activities and about learning Spanish. It is unbelievable that it has been two years since graduation. My only hope is that for many years to come, I am still in a place where my love for Spanish is contagious. "


  1. Cool! I took Spanish in an after school progrmam from 3rd-6th grade and as an elective in junior high. I loved it and I think it helped me improve my speaking skills and confidence in the language. In what region of the country does she teach?

  2. Hola, Jill. How lucky for you that you had access to Spanish when you were so young! I wish everyone had that. Lana teaches in the St. Louis area, but on the Illinois side of the river. I can't remmeber the name of the town... Lana, if you read this, let us know! :)

  3. I teach in Edwardsville, IL. Sorry this is so late!