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Foreign Language Education Major Gains Real-World Experience Through Student Teaching

student standing at front of classroom next to screen

Meet Claire Garner, a senior majoring in foreign language education (Spanish). This year, she is completing her student teaching and teacher licensure requirements at Apex Friendship High. There, she observes Spanish l and Spanish lll classes taught by a veteran teacher, works with more than 60 students and “is excited to grow student-teacher relationships.” 

Learn how Garner is blending her twin passions – Spanish and teaching – into a career path and how she is applying her coursework in the classroom. 

Why are you entering the teaching profession?

Growing up, I always thought I would enjoy teaching and it would be the perfect career fit for me. In college, I started out studying elementary education, but quickly realized I missed the Spanish classes I loved in high school. Once I started studying Spanish and education, I was excited about the future and fully committed to Spanish language education.

Why choose foreign language education?

It’s important to study a foreign language because it helps us connect and empathize with people we would not connect with otherwise. Cross-cultural connections are essential for our world to progress. By teaching students about Spanish language and culture, I prepare them to make the world a better place. 

What have you learned from student teaching that surprised you?

Going into my student-teaching experience, I felt it was pointless to observe Spanish teachers teach. I was wrong. I have gained a wealth of knowledge observing a veteran Spanish educator. She keeps students engaged and invites them into a learning environment that I didn’t know could exist.

Is teaching different from what you expected?

I didn’t expect how much fun the language learning experience can be for students and how I have the power to create that kind of an environment. I also didn’t expect that having more than 60 pairs of eyes staring at me while teaching would be so intimidating. But the students’ excitement to learn keeps me at ease when I feel nervous.

student holding up wolfie sign with hand
Claire Garner

How has COVID-19 impacted your teaching experience?      

Luckily, we have not had any severe issues in the classroom due to COVID-19. But wearing a mask all day impedes the growth of student-teacher relationships. It is also hard to teach language while masked because enunciation is such an essential part of transferring language skills, but we have been able to work around it with hand motions and other teaching strategies.

What did you learn about growing student-teacher relationships?

Students have their own life experiences that contribute to their behavior. If students have their heads down and don’t want to participate, don’t take it personally. Often, they are experiencing a lack of sleep, a difficult class or home situation, or other issues they carry to class. Teachers have the responsibility to advocate for students while respecting them as individuals. 

How has NC State helped you achieve your career goal?

NC State has given me ample opportunities to grow professionally, specifically through my student-teaching experience and the support I receive during my professional year. There are tests I must pass to become a teacher in North Carolina and it’s NC State’s priority to prepare me to succeed. For that, I am thankful.

What do you value about your NC State experience?   

The sense of community that exists at NC State is something I will always remember. I also value the opportunities the university has given me, such as getting involved with leadership and experiencing so much growth and rich fellowship in Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) throughout my time on campus.

What’s next?

In the spring, I will teach classes on my own. Once I complete that, I will apply for teaching positions throughout North Carolina! I am excited to introduce students to my love of Spanish.

What advice would you give to students entering the teaching field?

Get involved in the classroom as soon as you can and take every opportunity to learn from your teachers. Stay plugged in while you’re at NC State and take notes for what you want to apply to your future teaching strategies! Every moment is valuable.