Mar. 1, 2018 -- Valentine’s Day was celebrated across Tiger Nation with a Spanish flair this year. Students in Olivia Fatica’s high school Spanish classes made and mailed valentines for elementary children in those district schools where Spanish is taught: Canterbury, Fairfax, Noble and Oxford.
The younger set received their cards with a sense of pride and excitement about language learning. “The younger children connect with and adore my students,” said Fatica. “They make friends while learning Spanish, engaging in cultural activities and setting a strong foundation for further language study. Speaking Spanish becomes real.”
To further their connection, the elementary students then created their own valentines, using Spanish terms of endearment, to mail back to the high schoolers. Younger students in Jessica Artman’s classes at Canterbury cut out and decorated heart shapes with phrases like “Te adoro” and “Tu eres especial” while older students used a template to write an introductory letter. Because their unit currently focuses on school vocabulary, they included items like their favorite classes and subject areas.
“This is the best way for us to connect our department and our program across all grade levels and to advertise that we have foreign language opportunities for children from kindergarten through 12th grade,” said Artman. “It promotes language learning as a whole and helps them understand the value of studying and speaking another language.”
Plus, as Senora Fatica said, “It’s just plain fun!”
The students would definitely agree with that assessment. Canterbury third grader Jack Taylor said that receiving their valentines two days before the holiday “spread out the celebration. I felt happy and crazy and I got a sugar rush just thinking about all the candy I'd eat!”
The activity also served as motivation for Jack and his classmate Brooklyn Stevens, who both hope to continue studying foreign languages throughout their school years. Brooklyn would like to learn French and Chinese while Jack wants to “start with something easy like Pig Latin and move onto something hard like Japanese.”
Fifth graders at Roxboro Elementary, where students study Mandarin Chinese, still managed to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Latin twist. The day before the holiday, they enjoyed a guest speaker from Puerto Rico, Linelly Olmeda Santos, who introduced them to the island, its culture and the ongoing struggles from the hurricanes of this past fall.
According to fifth grade teacher Karen Hodson, “Presenting them with a first-person account of the devastation in Puerto Rico engaged their emotions and increased their knowledge of the world. It’s much different than just reading about it or watching a video. This visit promoted empathy, respect, curiosity, caring, and many of the other IB attributes and attitudes. Students were able to take action!”
Inspired by their visitor, the three classes hosted Valentine’s Day parties with a Puerto Rican theme, including snacks donated by Palladar, and created pins that they sold at their school’s Multicultural Night to raise money for the dance studio where Olmeda Santos studied in Puerto Rico.
As parent Karen Reinhart, who helped arrange the experience, explained, “The dance studio is an important place in her community that employs many people and gives kids a place to practice what they love everyday. It also gives our kids a chance to raise money for something they have a personal connection to.”
These connections continue to be cultivated, across the globe and across our district. To further the relationships between younger and older Spanish students, Canterbury’s kindergarten classes will visit the high school this spring to meet with Fatica’s students. The high schoolers will share stories they’ve written in Spanish while the kindergartners will perform a song and dance.
“I know our little kids will be impressed with how well the high schoolers can speak Spanish,” said Artman. “But I think the big kids will be impressed by us too!”