Majors and year of graduation: Spanish, English Education; 2011
Hometown: Sugar Grove, IL
Current city: Sugar Grove, IL
Alum Chris Paulus is currently working as a high school Spanish teacher at Byron High School in Byron, IL. Chris teaches Spanish 1 and 2 to approximately 145 students. Read on below to learn more about Chris' job as a Spanish teacher, and his memories about language classes at NMU.
Spanish Teacher 101...
What is your typical teaching day like?
We have 81 minute periods A/B schedule. I have three classes a day and I have one prep period.
There are only two foreign language staff at Byron--what is it like teaching in such a small department?
I love teaching in a small department. The other teacher and I get along great. We utilize a UBD approach to teaching (Unit by design). It’s something that I’m still getting used to, but it’s growing on me. I like it because we can create units that we consider important and we try to teach Spanish in a culturally-relevant and authentic way. Our tests are based off of speaking and listening more than paper-based tests. I still think the textbook is a great resource, but YouTube is great for authentic interviews and Spanish language examples/conversations.
What has been one of your favorite lessons or projects so far?
For my Spanish 2 class, in our Heroism unit, I asked students to divide up into groups based on their favorite hero. They then had to develop a short presentation in Spanish explaining why they thought their hero was the best. We pulled up pictures, used our vocabulary sheets, used dictionaries, wrote our answers down, and practiced. It was great!
Do you have any plans to get students involved with Spanish outside of class?
The other Spanish teacher and I are going to take the higher-level Spanish classes to a flamenco dance/poetry later in November near our school. We will then be going to a Mexican restaurant to practice ordering food.
What is most challenging about teaching? What is most rewarding?
I think that most challenging thing for me at this point is developing the curriculum. I am the first teacher to be trying out this new approach to teaching and to this new curriculum. So, I’ve kind of hit the ground running with this whole thing and I’m developing things as I go along. It’s also challenging to meet everyone else’s needs in the district while doing my own job. The kids here are a lot of fun. They, overall, have a great attitude. I’ve had a couple of kids approach me and say ‘hey, I was watching T.V. and I heard something in Spanish and I understood some of it!’ those are certainly the most rewarding moments.
Can you tell students a little bit more about the process of how you got the job at Byron?
Well it was actually a laborious and awful process. It involved a lot of tedious testing and approval of certification before a certain deadline. I could rant about that for about an hour. However, I used the website http://k12jobspot.com/ to apply for all kinds of jobs. I got about three responses looking for an interview. And, if they had already picked somebody, the system e-mailed you to let you know. Another wonderful plus is that they all used the same application system, so you could save your information to your e-mail and when you log in to a different website that uses the same system and lot of the main fields were saved and you could use them again.
Similarly, do you have any advice for graduates seeking teaching positions?
I suppose my advice is to have your certification ready before you apply. You can apply without it, because I got the job without my Illinois certification. But, it really expedites the process. Also, try to stick in the same state. I found that honesty in the interview got me a long way. If you’re honest, at least from my personal experience, you will find a favorable teaching staff and administration to work with. And, for god’s sake, don’t say that your strength is that you work too hard and sometimes devote too much time to your work. That response has been squeezed to its core.
In addition to teaching, how else have you used your language skills since graduating from NMU?
I have helped translate for some people, I have met new people, and I now have a high school teaching job at a wonderful district.
Have you studied another language since graduating from NMU? Where?
On my own, I’ve dabbled with audio and video programs and books. I’ve traveled to Europe since my graduation and took time to study the other languages of the respective countries.
A look back at NMU...
Why did you chose to study Spanish?
Mostly because I enjoyed it and I was good at it, but also because I was interested in Hispanic culture and have had a good experience speaking it in the past.
When did you begin your language education?
Early in high school. I maintained that throughout college.
What do you remember about your NMU language classes? What were they like? Did you have a favorite instructor?
I remember the enthusiasm of the NMU faculty. I was also very impressed with their work outside of the university. Most of them worked on translation and participated in seminars and traveled abroad as well. They were also very encouraging and acknowledged good work. I’m speaking specifically of my experiences with Profe Joy and Profe Compton. Most of the classes were involved in happy and engaging conversation. The literature they chose was interesting and we learned a lot of important history and culture. Their energy tried to compensate for the sometimes lazy and tired college student and they succeeded. I honestly looked forward to every single of one my Spanish classes the majority of the time.
How have the languages you studied at NMU enriched or enhanced your life, whether personally, academically, or professionally?
I’ve developed new friendships because of my ability to speak another language. What more could you ask for?
While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?
Usually in e-mails to faculty you could practice your Spanish. There were also a large number of study abroad possibilities available to me. I also helped translate for Central-American students that came to visit NMU in the past. I attended a Foreign Language conference. I got the chance to interview new Spanish department professors and have lunch with them.
While still an NMU student, did you study abroad? Where did you go, and why? How did the experience enhance your studies? Did it influence your future plans?
I went to Guanajuato, Mexico in May 2009 with Profe Joy over the summer. Of course, it enhanced my studies. We took challenging classes all in Spanish at a small school that is no longer in existence. I lived with a fabulous host family and went with most of my friends from NMU. I still think about the trip a lot and on Facebook we still talk about all of the good times that we had. I met many friends down there. I remember just about the entire trip because I enjoyed it so much. I hope that everyone can get an opportunity like mine.
A memorable thing that happened to you when traveling abroad:
Eating tacos in the street with Profe Joy.
A favorite foreign language word or phrase (and what it means):
Trabajábamos (we were working, we worked…) i just like the sound of it.