Teaching Traveling: It’s always fun to welcome back Teacher-Travelers I’ve interviewed before to update us on the great things they’ve been up to. This piece features Rease Kirchner who has just come out with an educational music album to teach Spanish! Rease, let’s pick up where we left off.
Rease: Hello! This is my second appearance on TeachingTraveling.com. My first appearance, Rease, Living and Working in Argentina, was posted in 2010! I can’t believe that was 5 years ago already.
I am now 28 years old and living in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. After living in Buenos Aires, I was never able to shake the desire to set up a home base in new places while taking as many side trips as possible.
Teaching remains a very important part of my life, which is why I recently released my own educational Spanish kids album, Sing and Dance for Spanish Smartypants, which I compliment with free resources via the blog on Spanish Smartypants. I’m thrilled that a project I created just for my own classes is now being made available to educators and parents all over the world!
TT: That’s awesome. When did you first start teaching?
R: I’ve been tutoring for as long as I can remember. I suppose my more formal teaching began in college, where I worked as a volunteer student tutor in an after-school literacy program. My BA in Spanish came in handy as a large amount of the students were from Spanish-speaking families.
I dedicated 4 years to the after-school program. Even during my busiest semesters, I could never skip a single session with my students. I loved volunteering with those kids so much that I quit my high-paying internet marketing job the day before college graduation and took a low paying but highly rewarding job as a Bilingual Preschool Teacher and translator. At the same school, I also taught Spanish classes to 6-8th graders and Basics of Audio Engineering (putting my 2nd BA, Audio Engineering, to use as well!)
TT: Wow! How did your teaching life change when you quit your job and began traveling?
R: I cried all throughout my last day as a teacher. It was so hard to leave a job and children that I loved so much, but I knew I needed to follow my dream of living and working abroad.
In Buenos Aires, I worked a variety of odd jobs, most of which included teaching. I spent a lot of my time giving private English lessons to adults, which I never found as rewarding as working with kids. I knew I needed to get back to my favorite age group.
Eventually, I found a family who I adored. I worked for them in a variety of capacities, my favorite being home schooling their 3-year-old son. I created a personalized, bilingual lesson plan for the very gifted and advanced child. I loved it so much that when I got a full time job at an office, I worked it out with my boss to work longer days 3 days a week so I could take half days twice and week and continue teaching my star student.
Now that some of my students have gotten older, I use Skype to tutor them remotely. My longest standing students, Amaya and Rayna, were the inspiration for the Spanish Smartypants initiative. I began tutoring them in my hometown of St. Louis, MO when they were 3 and 4 years old. As they advanced in their Spanish, I found that the music I had was no longer worthy of precious lesson time. I needed a way to keep music as an integral part of their classes, but I couldn’t seem to find any albums that tackled concepts much more advanced than shapes and colors. I wrote all of the songs just for them, but I realized that if I was frustrated by the lack of materials available for more advanced children’s Spanish, many other educators and parents had to be in the same situation. I decided to record the songs, add music, and launch a site dedicated to taking children’s Spanish to the next level, while still keeping it fun.
TT: Love it. What inspires you to continue teaching?
R: The feeling I get when I see something “click” for a student is just incredible. I love watching my students progress while still being kids. I love learning, but I know that type of love is not something that comes naturally to every student, so I am constantly striving to make lessons fun and make learning a game that every kid would like to play.
TT: What do you hope your new album, Sing and Dance for Spanish Smartypants, will provide for educators?
R: I hope the album will give educators a resource for keeping lessons upbeat and fun. The album tackles some trickier concepts such as verbs like gustar, ser vs. estar, and telling time, amongst others. In the past, I have watched students become hopelessly frustrated and confused while trying to take on these concepts. However, when I used my Ser and Estar song to teach a 6 and 7 year old, they had the concept down within a week. Once they had memorized the song, I could hear them singing it under their breath while doing homework.
I want this album to be a way for teachers to let their kids sing and dance in class while learning valuable, conversational tools in Spanish. Music is not just for preschool classrooms – all children (and even adults!) can benefit from using music as a memory device. I hope the songs of this album will get stuck in people’s heads and make it impossible for them to forget these Spanish lessons!
TT: Thanks so much, Rease! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?