Happy February MALT Members! I hope all of you are staying warm and finding things to do that make you happy through this long winter. I am excited to see that our days are getting longer and there is still a bit of sunshine as I arrive home and walk out to collect the mail before heading into the house for the evening. I feel that soon we will begin to see other signs of spring as winter sports end, prom approaches, and the countdown to graduation begins. I have to say I am grateful for all of this chaos that occurs every spring, even though it is hard to believe that our school year is almost two-thirds complete. Showing gratitude to others is the theme for this month’s blog.
Two summers ago, I read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. In the book, Pink suggested creating a list of the things for which we are grateful, the number corresponding to each year we have lived. I try to reflect on the things that brought me joy at the end of each day, as a way to stay focused on what is positive in my life. But sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to make sure that the people who are important to me know how much I have appreciated their help along the way. Recently, I became aware that the person who helped me the most in becoming the professional that I am is really quite ill. I don’t think that in the 25 or more years that I have known Dr. St. John Robinson that I have ever told him just how much I have appreciated his help, his guidance, his patience, and his wisdom. Without his help, I never would have been able to pursue my Master’s Degree in Spanish, and that step has been the single most important piece of professional development that I personally have undertaken.
The path I followed to become a Spanish teacher was a bit circuitous. I began college as a non-traditional student and was fully intent on becoming an English teacher. My second year at MSU-Billings, I was told that I had to declare a minor. I had never taken a Spanish class before, but the other choices presented to me were not very appealing. Linda Jones was the instructor that very first semester, and she would later become my colleague at Billings Public Schools. After that first year, St. John taught the majority of my Spanish classes. He became my mentor, was a great cheerleader when I became frustrated, and eventually he became my friend.
As I graduated, I was still convinced I would someday be an English teacher, even though I had really enjoyed my studies in Spanish. To my surprise, I was selected as the Spanish teacher at Lewis and Clark Middle School for my first ever job. Having no other language teacher colleagues in the building, when I had a problem I could not work out on my own, it was always St. John who answered my phone calls and patiently answered my questions.
Six years later, I was asked to take a position at the high schools. With No Child Left Behind calling for “highly qualified teachers,” I realized that I would have to go back to school and recuperate the credits needed to say that I had a major in Spanish instead of a minor. For two years, St. John helped me achieve this goal by setting up independent study opportunities for me, and helping me to find on-line courses to fill in for those I could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. He also celebrated with me when I finally finished that last credit and the change was officially made to my transcript.
The biggest influence he had on my professional life, though, was either a pure fluke or divine intervention. On the last full day of my first ever trip to Spain with students, we were checked in to a hotel on the outskirts of the city. As I passed through the lobby on my way to dinner, I heard a familiar laugh and turned to find St. John chatting with one of his college students. In that moment I had the strange sensation of knowing that being a Spanish teacher was truly my destiny in life, and it was time to finally focus on improving my skills to become the best SPANISH teacher I could be. When I eventually decided to pursue my Master’s in Spanish, Dr. Robinson’s letter of recommendation was included in the packet.
So, thank you St. John for all you have done for me. As educators we don’t always know when we have impacted the lives of our students, but I want to make sure you know that you helped me to realize that being a Spanish teacher really was my destiny all along. Others have helped me to grow, but you have been there every step of the way. ¡Mil gracias por todo, profe! And, as I conclude this month’s blog, I ask, “Who influenced you or helped you become the educator you are today? Do they know?” Have a great month - spring really is on its way!
- Alice Nation, MALT President