by Allison Kutzki
Hola! My name is Allison Kutzki and I am a junior studying to be a high school Spanish teacher. My experiences so far at the University of Illinois have been some of the most enriching of my life. Two years ago at this time, I was completely lost as to what I wanted to do for a living. As I continued to take Spanish classes, I began to realize how passionate I was about the language and the teaching of it. If it was not for the wonderful teachers, professors and experiences that I have had such as tutoring, I may not have found my calling in life. My most current opportunity that I have been given is through Spanish 232 and I am currently working at Leal Elementary School in Urbana. Being that I want to teach high school and have thus far only worked with students of that age, my first grade class at Leal has been an eye opener and given me new perspective on not only teaching but the Latino community near campus as well. I have worked there three times so far, and every Thursday morning is nothing but a joy for me.
If there is one thing that I have learned through my Spanish studies is that in order to advance your language skills it is crucial that you practice communicating with native speakers. One of the greatest things about working with young children is that they are in no way judgmental of your speaking ability. If I need help with the meaning of a word, they are thrilled to help me. In this way, working at Leal has become a two way street of learning. I am gaining knowledge from them just as much as they are from me. It has also been gratifying for me to be able to effectively communicate and interact with children who speak a different language and who come from a background different than that of my own. Being part of an educational environment such as this is an incredibly rewarding experience and has helped me to appreciate the character of young children.
As a Spanish major, I plan on studying in Granada, Spain in the spring. While I have at times had my doubts and fears about being able to effectively communicate with native speakers on a daily basis, I believe the experiences that I will have throughout the semester at Leal Elementary school will help make this transition much easier. I am ecstatic to have the chance to practice my Spanish in such a comfortable environment before I step into a completely foreign country where certain people may not be so friendly about the mistakes I make. I am so excited to see what the rest of the semester has to offer me as I believe I am both improving my language and teaching skills; which is all I could ever ask for from a course here at U of I.