Author Spotlight: Jennifer Cornell

Jennifer is one of the authors of our Spanish series, EntreCulturas 1, 2, 3. She is a resources teacher for Howard County Public Schools in Maryland. She's also the owner/developer of Connect with Languages, a website dedicated to technology tips and instructional strategies for the classroom. 

Learn more about EntreCulturas: Communicate, Explore, and Connect Across Cultures. 

We recently had the opportunity to ask Jennifer a few questions about herself and teaching. Here's what she had to say: 

What aspect of your teaching are you constantly working to improve? 

When I was in the classroom, I spent a lot of time looking for resources that would be inspiring and relevant. I was always trying to make opportunities for authentic learning and making sure I was bringing culture alive. I wanted to put my students in situations that were realistic and provide them with tools that would make them communicative in order to grow their proficiency in the Spanish language.  

What person from history do you admire and why?

I would have to say the Mirabal sisters from the Dominican Republic have always inspired me. They were courageous women. They have helped and encouraged so many others to be brave and to never give up on the things they believe to be important.

What is the biggest challenge in teaching Spanish? 

My biggest challenge was probably always pushing myself and my students to stay in the target language as much as possible. I used to always ask students to set goals and they always said they wanted to be fluent in Spanish. Well, that stuck with me and served as a reminder that if I did not give them as many opportunities as possible to engage with the target language and culture, they would not reach their goal of one day becoming in their words "fluent." 

What is the nicest thing a student has said to you? 

One student said how they loved that I always had a smile on my face—and that while they thought my classes were some of the most challenging because they had to do things in Spanish, I always made tasks practical, realistic, and memorable—and that I always cared about helping everyone.

What advice would you have for a novice teacher?

Do not be afraid to try different approaches and techniques or ways of learning. Know that some things will work and others will not. Take the extra time to plan and reflect and think through the process of your activities. It will make a difference. There is a correlation between planning and instruction. The beauty about teaching is that you get to start over all the time (each quarter or semester), so feel comfortable in being able to make the changes that are necessary for your students.

Remember why you got into teaching Spanish! Don’t lose the energy or positivity in which you started the year.  Students will always remember your enthusiasm, passion, and positivity. Seek out collaborative opportunities. Whether it is with someone from your team, another school, professional development meetings or webinars, or state conferences. These are the moments that inspire, energize, and engage to enhance our practice.