I am a graduate of Saint John's University (Collegeville, MN). I received my Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies, and hold a minor in Creative Writing. My semester-long study abroad trip to Viña del Mar, Chile was fundamental to my development as a Spanish speaker and a person. I attended Universidad Adolfo Ibanez, taking classes on Chilean culture, art, the Pinochet regime, and linguistics. These Spanish-only classes were tough, but not as tough as daily life was with my host family. Chileans speak a rapid, fragmented, and slang-filled version of Spanish, and my three, lovely host mothers were no exception. At the end of my four months in Chile, I could call myself a confident, fluent Spanish speaker, writer, and reader. My favorite subjects to teach are Spanish I and II. These levels are the building blocks of Spanish, and, as such, allow for more mistakes to be made and more fun to be had. I want my students to enjoy learning the language and realize that it is a life skill, not just a school subject. If a student feels that Spanish is strictly academic, his/her motivation will be low and progress slow. In my free time, I like to watch movies, read, walk, run, ride my bike, or otherwise enjoy the great outdoors.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Language-learning can be tough if it feels strictly academic, no? In my first few Spanish classes, I played around with the language. When I was laughing and smiling in class, I learned the material quickly, retained more information, and grew comfortable with making mistakes. So, let's make Spanish fun and accessible! Let's make some mistakes and learn from them! Let's make it about you, the student, and your journey through the Spanish language and el mundo (the world) beyond!
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In our first session, let's get to know each other! From the first "Hola" we can begin learning, but let's keep it fun and easy for now. We can listen to some music, chat, and I'll ask you some questions. It will be a great time to use some basic grammar and vocab if you know it! I want to know how you learn best, what challenges you, and what you want to get out of our sessions together. I want to know what you like to do, and how you foresee yourself using Spanish in the future. If you are anxious to get going, we can do some fun, simple exercises, and we will wrap it up with plans for the next session.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I hope that your journey through the Spanish language is a communal one. After all, speaking Spanish with people is the best way to learn. I hope that you find times to practice the language with friends, classmates, and teachers. However, your relationship with the language will be a very personal one, and I will give you some tools to practice and learn on your own time. These tools will depend on your interests and comfortability with the language. I have found movies, music, sports, and language apps to be particularly helpful for making me comfortable with the language.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I will always be available to my students via email, phone, and social media should they have questions or concerns. I will text or call them regularly to see how they are doing and how practice is going. Our sessions will be fun. If the student and their parents are willing, we will spend some sessions at restaurants, or we might find a play or other fun activities that allow us to immerse ourselves in the language. Many Spanish educations lack real life application. Let's change that. Ultimately, I want to be viewed as a helpful friend with Spanish experience rather than a tutor.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Congratulate them! They have learned maybe the most important lesson when it comes to language-learning. It's tough, and it's not always fun. Mistakes in Spanish are crucial, and I will encourage the student to make them with confidence. Mistakes can be fixed; building confidence is a tougher task, so we will start early. Let's look at the skill or concept in a different way, and apply it in fun situations. If we can't get it, we'll come back to it later. We will not beat ourselves up about it, however. This is Spanish fun hour with Senor Mike, not bootcamp.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
If a student is struggling with reading comprehension, we will slow it down and break it down. Maybe we will do several read-throughs focusing on something specific each time, but we won't focus on understanding the whole thing right away. Reading comprehension in Spanish is tough; it's as simple as that.