By Tony Ends


BRODHEAD – Heather Lawrence got fluent in Spanish working at a bridal salon in Beloit.

Word got around a growing Spanish-speaking community along the state line that she was using what she’d learned at Turner High School to help the bridal salon’s customers.

“I was not a successful high school student,” Lawrence admitted. “I had two teachers who inspired me, though. One teacher taught art, the other Spanish. I lived everyday to go to their classes.”

Spanish culture features a special celebration for teen-age girls on their 15th birthday.

“It’s their sweet 16 event, and the family usually gets a wedding dress for the affair – usually pink, but also sometimes blue, red, yellow,” Lawrence said. “There was a steady business for us, and I was the only one who spoke Spanish. I learned a lot.”

That language experience was part of what motivated Lawrence to attend college, first UW Rock County classes, then UW Whitewater.

She took Spanish education and English as a Second Language coursework, which led her to where she is today, filling a need in Brodhead schools.

“We have 30 students who qualify for English Language Learner services,” said Lawrence, who divides her time for the district between teaching Spanish and helping Spanish-speaking students master English. “However, we have many more students who have either been exited from the ELL program, or who have not qualified, yet need the extra support.

“I work with 14 of the 30 students on a weekly basis, and frequently check in, support, and monitor the rest.”

It’s now Lawrence’ turn to inspire students. She applied for and received a $500 American Association of Educators grant to purchase and build a collection of Spanish books.

She has older students learning Spanish, helping younger students. And her students use the language lab, a “Welcome to Edmodo” program similar to Facebook, whereby she poses questions for students, students review an art unit, then respond to questions and interact with classmates – all in Spanish.

Students have to make a minimum of posts, so there’s no holding back, as one might shyly in a totally oral classroom, where there is only so much time, for so many students to take turn using Spanish.

Lawrence’ Spanish 4th and 3rd grade students collaborated this term on a “Flat Stanley” project.

Flat Stanley is a book that 3rd-graders read about a boy who is flattened by a giant bulletin board, and travels the world in an envelope.

Here are some of the observations students in Lawrence’ classes learned from the project:

“I too really enjoyed the Flat Stanley project! I think it was a great way to introduce a new language in addition to demonstrating an often overlooked language barrier. Also we got to hang out with some kids for awhile, which is always refreshing! Overall, I had an awesome time. I’m happy we got to share this experience with the third graders! If we were to do something like this again, we should practice reading out loud a little bit more just so we can get the correct pronunciation down as well as a general fluency. ~Cheyenne, 12th grade

I really enjoyed the Flat Stanley project! I think that, overall, the kids especially enjoyed it and having the opportunity to share their Stanley with older kids who understood it as well. It was good practice to be able to summarize a story in Spanish and put it into English words as well. It was a different, unique assignment and I had fun with it!  ~ Elizabeth, 12th grade

Big success! I believe I may have enjoyed the project more than the third graders. It may have taken awhile to figure out but it was fun! I would change, however, the length of the book. Even though it is the shortest book I’ve read in a long time! We should practice speaking a little more too. I know I pronounced many things wrong. Sorry Chris!! ~Jack, 11th grade

I enjoyed the Flat Stanley project. The kids loved seeing their Stanley’s and sharing where they went with us. They only understood the numbers and names in English but they said it was cool hearing it in Spanish. ~Savanna, 12th grade

The Flat Stanley project was fun. The kids already related to the story so it wasn’t hard to keep their attention. Smiles on their faces while telling us the adventures of their Stanleys are going to be memorable. ~Spencer, 12th grade

I thought the whole project was really good. I liked how the big students used our art to illustrate the book.  ~Princesa, 3rd grade

I liked how they read to us. Even though they didn’t pronounce everything correctly, they still did a good job. Everybody really liked looking at the books they gave to us. I like how nobody fought over the book, and we all got a chance to look at it. Even the kids who don’t speak Spanish liked the book. ~Chris, 3rd grade

I loved the story because it had so many good details in it. The high school students summarized it pretty well. They read pretty good [sic] too, even though they mixed up some of the words. I liked that they are learning how to read in another language. It reminds me of how I am learning to read and some words are hard to say. ~Selena, 3rd grade.

New Spanish books