New Spanish teacher brings “lots of energy” and experience to the classroom

Emily Schmidt, Copy Editor

Fourth hour classes can be harder for students to focus in as thoughts of lunch slowly consume their focus and energy. In Danielle Turner’s fourth hour Spanish III class, however, students are kept engaged with a lively, competitive game of “arriba” to review and practice conjugations. During her first year at Bellevue West, Turner hopes to get students to see Spanish as more than just a subject.

Turner’s interest in becoming a Spanish teacher started during her fourth year of learning the language. Her teacher applied the language more, demonstrating the practical side of it instead of just the hypothetical. She said she especially felt the language come alive when the class she was in focused on poetry and writing.

“I think that was what made me really love it, and so I wanted to do that for my future students,” Turner said.

She took that passion to Creighton University, where practicum hours took her all over the metro, including classrooms in the Bellevue Public Schools district. Turner student taught at Mission Middle School and branched out to Bellevue East and West.

“I don’t know what it was about Bellevue, but I just really loved it,” Turner said “I knew I wanted to be in Bellevue.”

After graduating, Turner used her degree to start and run a Spanish program for preschoolers at the James R. Russell Child Development Center for two years. Her first job in a district was Elkhorn, where she worked for three years before coming to West. Her reach hasn’t been limited to just the metro area; last year she was an interpreter and coordinator for a group of Creighton students who went to the Dominican Republic to start a medical and dental clinic, an experience that Spanish teacher Larissa Knudson said she thinks is very beneficial to the Spanish department.

“She has a different understanding of that dialect and how it’s a bit different than sometimes our standard Spanish that we teach in class,” Knudson said.

As Turner’s mentor, Knudson met with Turner over the summer and will continue to meet with her every quarter to address topics such as conferences and grading periods. She’s also there to provide support and answer any questions. Knudson described it as “the teacher version of West Welcomers.”

“She has a lot of really good, positive energy, so it’s just a lot of fun,” Knudson said.

Sophomore Danelia Carr agrees with Knudson and is optimistic about the future of the class.

“I’m looking forward to being able to potentially start talking Spanish conversations,” sophomore Danelia Carr said “Ms. Turner is so fun and I know she’ll get us there. I’m excited to see what she’s got in store for us.”

As far as long-term plans go, Turner said she has hopes of bringing back Spanish V for students next year.

“I’ve been mulling it over and I think I want to do a unit over Spanish film,” Turner said, “I definitely want to do a unit where we’re reading an actual novel, and I honestly want to do a lot of speaking,” Turner said.

While Turner’s goal for this year is to make sure she gets through the curriculum, she said she would also like to get students comfortable with speaking and “low stakes” Spanish, meaning expressing simple thoughts and carrying out small conversations. She said she has found that many students are hesitant to speak because they’re scared of making a mistake, so she hopes to build their confidence.

“Most people that speak Spanish are just going to be happy at the fact that you’re trying to speak the language,” Turner said.