Profe M. Garcés, Spanish Educator

Opening worlds, opening minds through language learning

My decision to become a teacher stems from a life-long love of learning, a strong value and belief in the power of education to change lives, and a desire to expose young people to other cultures and new ways of thinking.

I feel called not just to teach, but specifically to teach Spanish, a language especially personal to me as a Colombian American. After a trip to visit my father’s family in Colombia in the late 1990s, I came to the painful realization that having not fully learned to speak Spanish, I was not able to communicate with my family. Then a sixth grader, I made the conscious decision to learn the language in school. I continued with Spanish in high school, tutoring first-year Spanish students as a senior. Little by little, I grew in the language. It was ultimately my study abroad experiences in Spain through Michigan State in 2006 and 2007 that gave me confidence as a speaker.

In teaching Spanish, I hope to open my students’ minds to new cultures and new ways of thinking so that they can better understand and value difference and diversity, cultural or otherwise. Literacy and communication skills will be key in my classroom, and through language learning my students will see cognitive benefits in a host of other areas. Language learning correlates with higher academic achievement, is beneficial to students’ reading abilities, and there is evidence that language learners transfer skills from one language to another.


Salento, Colombia © Martha Garcés, all rights reserved.

My family background, my own educational experiences, and the joy I have found in the aspects of each of my jobs related to teaching and mentoring have all influenced my decision to become a teacher. As I have seen in my personal travels, language learning does more than open doors; it opens worlds. With a little bit of courage, even the lowest levels of aptitude in a language offer opportunities to connect with others. While I do not pretend to expect that every high schooler who enters my classroom become a fluent Spanish-speaker, I do believe that exposure in school will lead to a more positive attitude toward the language and from there a greater openness to people of Spanish-speaking origins. That sense of open-mindedness is what I hope to impart to all of my students. I hope to inspire at least a few to fall in love with language learning, so that they too may reap the benefits of a friendly Hello and perhaps a conversation to follow, wherever they go next.