Favorite Teachers: Señora Menna

It’s teacher appreciation week in most of the United States, and since I think a great deal about the teachers I have had over the years, I decided to try to write about some of them this week. By no means is this a comprehensive list, but was something I did last year (when I wrote about Mr. Madrid, Miss Goettinger, and Mrs. Jones) and figured I would continue the tradition this year as well.

I start of with the one teacher, out of many, who instilled a great love of the Spanish language within me.

Señora Menna was a feisty teacher who exuded a great deal of passion for the subject she taught and a great deal of concern for all of her students. I met her my sophomore year, but I had her as a teacher for one semester of my junior year (for those not in the states, I was seventeen when I was her student). She taught my Spanish three class second semester, as I had a schedule change that semester which caused me to have to move from another Spanish teacher’s classroom to hers.

I need to back up just a bit before why I say Señora Menna is still my most favorite Spanish teacher. The church that I attended in California sponsored a children’s home in Villa de Juárez, Baja California Norte, Mexico. When I was fourteen years old, I made my first visit to that children’s home and fell in love with the culture, the people, and the language. I had taken Spanish in middle school, but had failed miserably because I has not made any connections. That first trip made me want to learn to speak, read, and write in Spanish, so I was learning as much as I could as fast as I could. By the time I was in Sra. Menna’s class three years later, I had picked up a great deal of the language, including some slang words from the numerous other trips I had made.

Side note here – The photo above was one of the hundred or so trips I made to Mexico. I was there to attend a wedding of friends in January 2002 and mi amiga Sofía wanted una fota with me. I’ve received Sofía’s permission to post this, since I also am still in touch with her via Facebook. I helped translate at this wedding for some other Americans that were there, something Sra. Menna encouraged me to learn to do.

Because I sometimes answered questions in Latin American slang instead of the more “proper” Castellano, I would get answers incorrect with some teachers. I did get them incorrect with Sra. Menna as well, but she would laugh and say that yes, I was using correct words for where I was learning it from but that I should always be open to knowing all of the words . She also encouraged me to keep learning the different nuances and embrace the culture of the little area in Mexico I had started picking up Spanish from.

I still use Spanish to this day, with the distinct accent from the valley in Mexico where I picked it up and learned it until I moved to Iowa sixteen years ago. I keep in touch with a number of the friends I had made in Mexico via messages and letters. I talk with the friends who speak it here in my little swath of the Midwest. And while I am a bit rusty with some of the verb tenses that I don’t use often, I can still hear Sra. Menna’s voice telling me to keep learning and keep practicing.

Without her encouragement, who knows if I’d still have this passion for learning languages. Spanish was only the first. I can now speak a smattering of a handful of languages and make connections along the way. She taught me that there is no right or wrong way to communicate if you are willing to make the effort to try. And she taught me that mistakes are sometimes the best way to learn. To this day I laugh at mixing up the verbs cansar (to tire) and casar (to marry) on a speaking assignment because she graciously corrected me with a little joke thrown in.

Though now retired, she still has a great deal of passion for life and has a lot to still continue to write in her own story. I know because I still keep in touch with her as I have with Miss Goettinger. She still is feisty and still shows a great deal of concern for her former students and still exudes exuberance for learning and living.

Dear teachers, you do matter in the lives of students. It may not be every student who remembers you fondly, but there will those who look back and think of you with love in their hearts and a smile on their face. They may even remember your words of wisdom. or at the very least, the way you said their name with a gentle laugh as you corrected their mistakes.

Stay magical. Write your own story.

Or, as Sra. Menna might tell me to say… Mantienen la magia. Escriben sus propias historias.

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And as always, #writeyourownstory

2 thoughts on “Favorite Teachers: Señora Menna

  1. What a beautiful tribute to a fantastic teacher! I love the example you showed of how someone can be guided, taught, and corrected with grace and humor, leaving them encouraged instead of defeated. She sounds like a very special lady 💞💞💞

    Liked by 1 person

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