Learning on the job

Health teacher Jose Speer furthers his Spanish knowledge


Photo by: Francisco Castaneda

Spanish teacher Angela Pallarés works with health teacher Jose Speer to improve his Spanish writing.

Story by Francisco Castaneda and Nolan Turnbull

After the bell rings to signal the end of study hall, health teacher Jose Speer walks down to room 220 where Spanish teacher Angela Pallarés teaches AP Spanish. He walks in, takes his seat, and prepares to learn more about the Spanish language.

Although he has a basic knowledge of the language, he is working to improve his Spanish so he can converse with family in Puerto Rico and his Spanish-speaking students.

“I have a little informal knowledge in Spanish,” Speer said. “I grew up in a household where we spoke a lot of Spanglish but I’m trying to primarily learn Spanish now.”

When Pallarés was outside of her room, Speer approached her by speaking Spanish and began to ask for extra help. With the knowledge he already had in the language, Speer began to attend the 5th hour AP Spanish class.

“[Speer] actually surprised me by speaking really good Spanish,” Pallarés said. “He asked me if I taught the language outside of school, but I don’t have a lot of time outside of school. I told him he was very welcome to come to any of my classes, and it just happens that he has a plan period during my Spanish four class, which was what he needed to be in because he speaks well already.”

During the class, Speer and Pallarés work together in order for Speer to improve on certain skills.

“He has different things he wants to work on and it is not like he needs homework so we are trying to hit points on what he needs strength in individually,” Pallarés said. “Spanish four does a lot of independent work on certain days so I try to cater to what he needs during those time periods.”

According to Speer, his first time joining the class was nerve-racking.

“At first, I was nervous because a lot of the kids spoke Spanish very well,” Speer said. “I am speaking a lot better, and doing a lot better with my confidence.”

AP Spanish student senior Jacob Mathew, says that he likes having Speer in class.

“[I] feel like Mr. Speer fits into our classroom really well. I’ve never been intimidated or felt uncomfortable when he is in class,” Mathew said. “I have a lot of respect for him. It takes a certain type of person to put their pride aside and sit in a classroom alongside students that are much younger than them.”

Pallarés says she believes Speer’s want to connect to his culture is making a positive impact on her students.

“I am grateful to him because he wants to be more connected with his culture and closer with his family who is Puerto Rican,” Pallarés said. “I think he is inspirational to the students because they see an adult that is taking time out of their busy schedule to give something like their heritage and language importance.”

According to Mathew, students have made important connections with Speer during his time spent in class.

“Speer also supports our endeavors outside of class with Spanish Club, which just goes to show the kind of connection we’ve made with him,” Mathew said. “Though I’ve only known him for a short while, I can already tell that he’s a genuine and kind person, and I’m really glad he’s choosing to sit in on our Spanish class.”