Learning a new language can be difficult. However, it can also be fun and enriching. Students in Sonia Perez’s classroom are not only learning Spanish but also the culture.
“I want my students to be open to new cultures and new things,” Perez, Lower School world language Spanish teacher, says. “I want my students to remember that things can seem hard, but with practice and effort, it can get easier.”
She encourages her students to apply their Spanish skills if they travel to a Spanish-speaking country or dine at a restaurant that serves food traditionally from a Spanish-speaking country. Students tell her when they used their Spanish skills outside of the classroom or tried foods from Spanish-speaking countries. “Spanish is all around them and they should take advantage of that,” Perez, a proud Puerto Rican woman who loves her culture and enjoys sharing it with her students, says.
Her teaching style focuses on social-emotional learning, voice, and choice. In her classroom, she has a Zen Zone, so students can take a break if they need one. “I greet my students at the door and ask them how they are doing before they enter my class. Kids are really honest and they will let you know,” she says. “This is important for me to see how kids are feeling before I start my class. It’s one way I connect with my students and support them with what they need to learn best.”
Perez has close to 25 years of combined teaching and education administration experience. She recalls that she always wanted to be a teacher because she “was inspired by children and wanted to spend [her] days supporting them.”
She first joined Lab in 2018 where she served as the dean of students for four years. She missed working directly with students so she decided to get back into teaching and began teaching Spanish this past year. “Working directly with students and their learning was where I felt I could make the most impact,” Perez says. “I’ve been able to rediscover the motivations behind why I decided to become a teacher in the first place.”
She incorporates fun and dance into her lessons whenever possible. During the February Lower School Community Assembly for Black History Month, her students researched and presented information about Afro-Latinos. Her third grade class learned about the life and music of Celia Cruz, renowned Cuban-American singer referred to by many as “the queen of salsa.” Perez taught her students a dance to one of her most famous songs, “La Vida es un Carnaval,” which means, “Life is a Carnival.”
"My enthusiasm for teaching grows every day. My smile is the same size every morning when I leave for school and when I get home," she says.
- Teaching at Lab