Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Spotlight: Carolyn (Carolina) Kloecker

by Ann Abbott

Carolina Kloecker is passionate about Spanish and service. She is a self-starter who came to my office just to introduce herself long before she actually took a class with me. And that "jump-in-there" attitude of hers (which many students can develop more in themselves) has taken her far.

As a UIUC student, Carolina studied abroad in Ecuador, did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship with ACCION Chicago, took "Spanish in the Community" and "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," worked in the Study Abroad Office and amped up their social media presence, and in general simply took advantage of many, many opportunities on campus to develop her language, leadership and service skills.

She was an ideal student. But she graduated in May 2011 and had to find her way in a tough job market. I think her current job and activities will be of interest to all Spanish students but especially those interested in teaching. You can visit her classroom blog, and you can read below to see how Carolina continues to use her passion for languages and cultures in her teaching.

"Hi there!

"I have been so very busy as a 1st Grade Dual Language (Bilingual) teacher here in Austin! I actually teach at Gattis Elementary in Round Rock, Texas, which is a suburb just north of Austin. After getting in to Texas Teaching Fellows in March, I moved down in June to start my summer institute and student teaching. I worked with a Pre-K class (also dual language) and absolutely loved it.

"I am having a blast, and I am especially excited about the expansion of the Dual Language model throughout bilingual education. My classroom is actually "Two-Way" Dual Language, meaning that I have both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students in my class, and the English-speakers are learning Spanish while the Spanish-Speakers learn English, so both languages are equally valued. We alternate Spanish days and English days, but Language Arts is always in the child's native language (so I have to teach at least 2 separate lessons each day), Math is always in English, and Science and Social Studies are always in Spanish. My class is about 2/3 English speakers and 1/3 Spanish, so I have noticed that I have to use lots of goofy gestures and visuals especially when we are doing Science and Social Studies. In the morning on a Spanish day the English speakers walk in and say "awww man! It's a Spanish day." but then when we get to a read aloud or an activity in Spanish, they get so excited when they actually figure out what I'm saying. I have some wonderful students that are very attentive and they are really picking up a lot of vocabulary and understanding very quickly.

"Spanish in the Community and Spanish in Entrepreneurship obviously prepared me incredibly for the role of being a bilingual educator. I was taught to value Spanish, and I saw the reality in Illinois schools (much like in my hometown) where Spanish-speakers are separated and can occasionally be "pushed" to learn English (early-exit) without ever really learning "academic" Spanish. I hope that the dual language model will start to spread even further. It is already in several large districts in Texas and Washington state, as well as other places around the country. More about Dual Language is on the Gomez & Gomez (guys who came up with it) website: In their model, students will continue through dual language at least through 5th grade (there is no "exiting"), if not entirely through middle and high school. They are creating true bilingual citizens, because students will learn subjects in both languages rather than just doing things at school in English and at home in Spanish.

"I am so happy at my school, and I was so lucky to be able to get a job. I really think that I have a job because I speak Spanish, and because of my motivation to learn. That is what I try to tell my students and the parents of my students, that bilingualism (or multilingualism!) can be a huge asset and is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your life."

Carolina, you are a shining star and an example that all of our Spanish students can follow. Good luck!

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