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Educator Spotlight: Spanish Educator Miguel Casas
Rachelle Garbarine

Introduction: We are excited to continue our Educator Spotlight series, which regularly will bring you inside the classroom of one of our exceptional educators. In doing so, the series will offer you a glimpse of how Gibbons educators care for and engage students, preparing them for college and beyond while forming them as men and women of faith, service, and leadership in church and community.  Today, we are spotlighting Spanish Educator Miguel Casas.
Our other spotlights featured Math Educator Leah Iyer ' 08, Science Educator Joleen Smith , Theology Educator Austin Faur, and English Educator Maria Hill.

While engaging students in conversation during class is not always an easy task, it is doubly hard when that class is Spanish II Honors. Enter Señor Miguel Casas who has his third period students on a recent Monday slowly but surely chatting away in their second language.

The students are exchanging pleasantries about such weekend activities as going to a movie, having dinner at a restaurant with family, or making pizza - pepperoni to be exact. Later, they are reading and analyzing the book, El misterio de la llave or The Mystery of the Key. Throughout the class Casas is emphasizing students’ use of the preterite or past tense.

The expectation, Casas said, is for the students, “to take another baby step in the gradual process of gaining confidence when speaking Spanish, as well as solidifying their acquisition of the past tense.”

Communicating in Spanish is at the heart of Casas’s class. Here, students are “immersed” in the Spanish language for most of the 45-minute period; here the content comes to life; here they learn a new way to communicate.

Why are the students so engaged? A key reason is that Casas has a dynamic teaching style and a wry sense of humor that students love. The combination not only helps him relate to and interact with his students, but also to create an active learning environment, bringing fun and enthusiasm into the classroom.

Casas, who has been teaching his native Spanish language at Gibbons for 20 years, also draws upon his own personal experience to encourage learning. When students entered Room 216 for this Monday class, Spanish music, 80s techno sound from Casas’s past, filled the air. The music played at the end of the period, too. On some days, students can be seen dancing out of his classroom.

At the same time, they also are learning Spanish language and critical thinking skills. On this day, with this music, they were learning verb tenses – particularly that pesty preterite tense.

Ultimately, in eight years students may not remember the correct word for statistics (estadística) or how to pronounce scarecrow (espantapájaros). They will, however, most certainly remember Señor Casas.