Seventeen Western students are enrolled in Spanish 425, a class that gives them the opportunity to work with second-year Spanish students at Sehome High School.
Se Habla is a tutoring program counting for two credits toward student’s Spanish major while helping improve vocabulary, conjugation and overall conversational skills in second-year Spanish classes, three hours per week, at the high school.
At the beginning of each class they are given a lesson plan and spend the class time helping the students learn Spanish through games and activities.
Two or three Western students are usually in one class at a time with the teacher. Then they break into smaller groups so they are able to work more closely with the students, ranging from sophomores to seniors.
The class is a good opportunity for both Western students and Sehome students, said Shaw Gynan, a Spanish professor at Western and the world languages endorsement advisor.
“They have to speak entirely in Spanish,” Gynan said. “At first they’re really shy, but then it’s a big hit and the kids love it and our Western students really enjoy it because it gives them a chance to get some practical experience.”
The Se Habla program started at Western more than 30 years ago.
“At first, it was much more informal, but now it is much more systematic and very well organized,” Gynan said.
Senior Hannah Breveleri started taking the Se Habla class this quarter and participated in it when she was a student at Sehome. The high school students like working with the college students because it is easier to relate to them, she said.
The Western students lead different activities that correlate with what the students are learning in class, Breveleri said.
“Right now they’re working on the future tense, so we played a sort of ‘would you ever’ game where they said things that they will never do in the future,” Breveleri said.
Breveleri also enjoys encouraging the high school students to continue with Spanish, she said.
“It can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel in high school, so it’s fun to talk to them about what could happen in the future.”
While not required in Washington state, Bellingham School District requires two years of foreign language. Sehome High School Spanish teacher Ashleigh Bobovski said this changed the classroom dynamic a bit.
“In the last few years our classes have become bigger, and it’s not just the college-bound students that are taking our level two class, now language is a requirement for everyone,” Bobovski said.
High school students are not required to take language classes to graduate, according to Washington State graduation requirements.
Although Se Habla takes place in a classroom and puts the Western students in a teaching position, the program is not limited to just Spanish students who have an interest in education.
Breveleri does not plan on going into teaching but the program is a good way to gain classroom experience, she said.
Even though the majority of Spanish majors do not plan on going into teaching, the teaching experience is still helpful, Gynan said.
“Eventually you need to learn how to present yourself and how to develop a leadership role, and this definitely helps students with that, because they are suddenly the expert,” he said.
About 50 percent of Spanish majors are in the Woodring College of Education, Gynan said.
“A lot of students find teacher salaries unappealing and education is a very expensive program,” said Gynan. “Many of our students are going into linguistics, but would also like to gain some ability in teaching and second-year language acquisition.”