Kelly Haanen

I teach Spanish 1 at Front Range Christian School in Littleton, Colorado.  I am thrilled to be teaching TPRS this year (and maybe even a little obsessed!).  This is my fifth year teaching, but my first really using TPRS and CI exclusively in my classroom.  I taught at Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch for my first four years, and was lucky enough to have a department chair who loved TPRS.  So…why is THIS my first year using it you might ask?  Well, as a brand new teacher who had never heard of Blaine Ray or seen anything modeled except textbook teaching, I had no clue what I was doing!  I was given a Cuentame Mas book two weeks before school started and was told to teach a big list of commands for the first few weeks of school.  So, I gave it a shot.  It was really bad.  A month or so in, I was lucky enough to attend a Blaine Ray workshop.  It was great.  But, I couldn’t figure out how all of the stuff that he said fit with these commands and the little storybook I had.  So, I tried again to incorporate some of Blaine’s ideas.  Again, it was really bad.  My kids hated it.  I hated it.  No one learned.  I gave up.
In a lot of ways I still “dabbled” in TRPS concepts and even used a lot of materials in my class.  I felt really good about my teaching.  Kids loved Spanish and we had lots of fun.  Songs, games, really nice worksheets and clear grammar explanations.  Things were good.  Then I had my second baby, took some time off, and started teaching part-time at Front Range Christian.  We hired a new guy to teach Spanish 2, 3, and 4.  In the interview he said that he had used TPRS.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  We hired him.  We did some planning together over the summer.  I kept trying to ride the fence.  “Sure, a little bit of story stuff is ok.”
Then something hit me.  My students had loved Spanish.  We had lots of fun.  They even did well on tests and continued taking Spanish the next year.  But, they didn’t know Spanish.  They didn’t!  They couldn’t speak it, or understand it, or even write it!  What a disservice I had done to all of those students!  So I gave in.  I had to.  It was obvious that there was a better way to teach, and a better way for kids to learn.  We began ordering some materials for the year and found some of Ben’s stuff.  We sent an email and asked for him to send his books along with some of Anne’s stories.  He emailed back and told us he lived two miles from us!  (I was one of the “visitors” in Ben’s Yoshi class.)  What a huge blessing it has been to learn from Ben and to be a part of this blog.
So far, this has been the best teaching decision I have ever made.  I feel like I am finally doing the right thing for my students.  Obviously, I have so much more to learn.  I am still fighting the desire for vocabulary lists and trying to teach way too much, way too fast.  I also find myself slipping into English too often with the desire to connect more with my students.  I do feel like I am figuring out a decent flow to my week (basically using Ben’s plan).  My students are getting lots of CI and they love it; they are really learning Spanish.  Six weeks into the year and I can hardly believe how much they understand.  I feel honored and humbled to be able to learn from all of you.  Thank you!
Kelly Haanen



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